Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

I Wor Kuen

The Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization and the National Liaison Committee

First Published: in a supplement to the IWK newspaper Getting Together, February 1977.
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.

[EROL Note: This is an excerpt from a longer document entitled: Learn From Negative Example: Lessons from the Degeneration of the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization]

The National Liaison Committee

During the YLP [Young Lords Party – EROL] Congress, PRRWO proposed the formation of a National Liaison Committee (NLC), composed of representatives of PRRWO, RU, the Black Workers Congress (BWC) and IWK. IWK agreed to join the NLC as it was supposed to be a mechanism for struggle among the four organizations, and since we wanted to build communist unity and had some serious differences, especially with the RU, which we wanted to struggle out. Originally, it was not formulated as a party building process, nor even an exclusive body that was closed to other communist groups. We joined with this perspective. It soon became evident, however, that the RU was violating the original purpose of the NLC by excluding other Marxist-Leninist groups, by using it to squash struggle in the communist movement, and to simply build up the RU.

When the RU’s plans became evident, we left and tried to link the RU’s practice in the NLC to their opportunism on the national question and incorrect conception of party building. We, however, did not raise these differences to a more general level to draw lessons for the communist movement and this was a rightist error. (See IWK Journals #1 and #3 for more on the NLC.)

The response of PRRWO in the NLC, however, was very different. In the course of the NLC, PRRWO adopted more and more of the RU line including the RU’s economism, the “nation of a new type” thesis from Red Papers #5 and the RU’s unprincipled method of building the new party.

Consequently, PRRWO drastically altered their mass work. After making the incorrect “self-criticism” of their positive work in the national struggles in the past, PRRWO proceeded to liquidate its revolutionary work and ties within the Puerto Rican community, and its work in the Puerto Rican independence movement. This was a very big step backward for PRRWO, from which they never really recovered.

In its student areas of work and in the workplaces, PRRWO attempted to build the RU’s “anti-imperialist forms of organizations.” These forms of “mass” organizations no longer tried to educate the masses about the need for revolution, but limited themselves to fighting for economic demands and reforms. They rationalized this rightist line with the idea that workers first had to be brought to the level of intermediate “anti-imperialist” consciousness (i.e., consciousness of simply fighting back against the system) but were not ready or open to socialist ideas. PRRWO itself was on the verge of liquidating itself to become an “anti-imperialist” organization and not a communist organization.

PRRWO’s liquidation of its community work and PRRWO’s transformation of other areas to the “intermediate anti-imperialist level” objectively ended the revolutionary ties it had built up over the past years among the Puerto Rican masses, and some students and workers of other nationalities. PRRWO became increasingly divorced from the masses and reality.

PRRWO became more and more irresponsible to the masses, erratically altering its work from week to week. One consequence was that it allowed opportunist forces in the Puerto Rican movement to grow. In effect, PRRWO gave up the struggle to defeat the opportunists’ influence among the masses.

PRRWO also united with the RU’s revisionist formulation of the “Black nation of a new type,” which in essence stated that Black people had no distinct national character and the Black national question was simply a “workers” question This “theory” violated the basic Marxist teaching on the national question and imperialism. PRRWO united with it, however, calling it a “brilliant, original and creative development of Marxism-Leninism.” PRRWO united vigorously with the RU to try to force the entire NLC to adopt RU’s line as the “correct line.”

PRRWO in adopting Red Papers #5 and the “nation of a new type” theory united with RU’s chauvinist claim that the struggles and revolutionary demands of the nationally oppressed people “split the unity of the working class.” The RU opposed the correct Marxist-Leninist view that imperialism and opportunism, not the national struggles, divide the working class.

Only by tirelessly educating and leading the working class to oppose all forms of national oppression and to support the legitimate demands of the oppressed nationalities, can genuine political unity of the working class be forged. Only by fighting against capitalism and all its agents in the working class, opportunists, social-reformists, and social chauvinists, and confronting contradictions, can the working class be united in struggle. The RU’s view actually helps support the bourgeoisie’s system of national oppression and class exploitation, and helps maintain the disunity and weakens the fighting capability of the working class.

PRRWO was aided in its wholesale adoption of the RU’s line by the careerism of sections of their leadership. The RU carefully fostered this. In NLC meetings, careerism, manipulation and unprincipledness ran rampant. The RU, together with PRRWO, for instance bragged openly about everyone being on the central committee of the new party. They even went so far as to consider certain areas of the country “kingdoms” of one or another person. PRRWO was blinded with grandiose talk of foreign travel, of “power,” of money and “prestige.”

The RU, aided vigorously by PRRWO, attempted to use the NLC to split and divide up the various organizations in the NLC. As we stated in our article on the NLC in IWK Journal #1, the RU had the policy of “merge them or smash them.” Part of both merging and smashing other organizations was to smash democratic centralism and the collectivity of the leadership bodies of the other organizations, which the RU supposedly claimed to be fraternal and equal communist organizations.

PRRWO representatives, for example, came to NLC meetings with copies of the notes of PRRWO central committee meetings, dissected individuals on their central committee for the “benefit” of the rest of the NLC. PRRWO and BWC went so far as to open the files of their organization’s leading bodies to the RU, something which they did not even allow their own cadres to look into. When IWK protested and refused to do so ourselves, the other NLC representatives accused us of not “subordinating ourselves to what was coming into being,” by which they meant their own unprincipled scheme to build a new party based on RU’s line.

1974 – PRRWO Splits from the RU and the NLC

Thus by 1974, while it was initially a positive step that PRRWO attempted to adopt Marxism-Leninism as a guide to its work, it had made very serious errors in the process. PRRWO had mistaken the RU line for Marxism-Leninism, adopting the RU’s economist “workerism,” their liquidation of the national question, and their revisionist theory of a “nation of a new type.” They had criticized the positive nature of their past work in the national movements. They had ended their revolutionary work among the masses, and they had united with the careerism promoted by the RU leadership.

PRRWO’s contradictions with the RU developed in part because of the RU’s blatant chauvinism toward PRRWO. Some PRRWO cadre responded to the RU’s blatant chauvinism, pointing out that the RU was not at all interested in building unity through struggle with PRRWO, but rather only wanted PRRWO to carry out the RU’s plans. This provoked some PRRWO cadre to take a closer look at the actual political line of the RU, and later on the PRRWO leadership began to struggle against the RU. This laid the basis for some of the later correct aspects of PRRWO’s criticism of the RU’s liquidation of the national question.

As the RU attempted to “merge” with PRRWO, PRRWO was not allowed to “share equally” in the RU’s opportunist scheme to build the party.

Eventually, a split took place between the BWC and PRRWO, on the one hand, and the RU on the other. PRRWO and BWC wrote a criticism of the RU at the time of the split. By the time of the split, the RU’s errors were consolidated into a thoroughly opportunist line.

But while PRRWO broke with the RU, whether or not they could move ahead and correct their own serious errors would be determined by whether they could trace to the roots the source of their own unity with the RU. In addition, PRRWO could only repair the damage if it correctly traced the reason for its repudiation of its own revolutionary history in the early years, its destructive liquidation of its revolutionary work among the masses, and its adoption of the RU line. PRRWO had already begun to move backward. Unless they rectified their own errors, and linked the criticism of the RU to their own practice, they would only continue in a wrong direction.

PRRWO Fails to Root Out Its Errors

However, in its paper criticizing the RU, PRRWO did not account for its own errors in uniting with and promoting the RU’s basic line for two whole years. They did not even point out the unity they had with Red Papers #5 and the “nation of a new type” theory. PRRWO made some criticisms of the RU’s economism and denial of the importance of the oppressed nationality movements, but their own erroneous tendencies prevented PRRWO from developing a more correct line and avoiding similar errors in the future.

After the split, both PRRWO and BWC began to make “left” dogmatist errors. In combating the rightism of the RU, and their belittlement of the importance of Marxist theory, they began to absolutize theory as something that comes from simply studying the “classics,” something with no dialectical relationship to practice among the masses, something that could answer all questions in the abstract This was simply another form of mechanical thinking.

PRRWO, for instance, began to believe that building a new communist party could be done in isolation from the task of fusing the communist and workers movement. The policies and line that PRRWO tried to formulate became even more divorced from social reality, and they became even less able to deal with the actual problems of the revolution. PRRWO did not resume its revolutionary work among the masses. Their practical work became limited to forming study circles composed mainly of ex-students, since they had little contact with or understanding of the working class. Their propaganda work did not present and concrete analyses of concrete conditions.

Thus, PRRWO never actually rooted out the sources of its serious deviations during the NLC: its incorrect understandings of its past work; its rejection of the revolutionary role of the oppressed nationalities in overthrowing capitalism; its distorted view of the development of the revolutionary movement since the 60’s; its metaphysical view of the working class based on infatuation with the spontaneous economic movement of the working class; the petty-bourgeois careerism of the PRRWO leadership which sacrificed principle for immediate personal or organizational advantages.

In not connecting these serious bourgeois aspects of their organization, PRRWO could not thoroughly throw off their own opportunism, and consequently, after the split with the RU, PRRWO flip-flopped into a dogmatist direction. This was an indication of PRRWO’s instability, stemming from their superficial grasp of Marxism-Leninism and their increasing isolation from social reality and the struggles of the masses.