Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Irwin Silber

’...fan the flames’

First Published: The Guardian, October 1, 1975.
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.

The recent International Conference in Solidarity with Puerto Rico held in Havana (Guardian, Sept. 24) has been strongly attacked–both before it was held and since–by a variety of forces.

Not unexpectedly, Henry Kissinger said the conference was meddling in “the internal affairs of the U.S.,” thus attempting to disguise the fact that it is U.S. imperialism that has been meddling in the internal affairs of Puerto Rico for almost a century.

But the attacks have not come only from the agents of imperialism. Some sectors of the new communist movement–led by the October League (OL)–have launched a campaign of invective and harassment against the Puerto Rican Solidarity Committee (PRSC) in the U.S. for supporting and agreeing to participate in the Havana meeting.

The OL is, of course, entitled to its opinion. They had every opportunity to express that opinion at the founding convention of the PRSC last March, at which time the proposal to participate in the Havana conference was endorsed overwhelmingly.

Since that time, however, the OL has carried on an unremitting campaign within the PRSC against the conference. It has also published articles in its newspaper, the Call, attacking the conference, in the process of which it has resorted to both slander and falsehood to buttress its ideological position.


It must be said that the actions of the OL since last March in relation to the international conference constitute another form of meddling in the internal affairs of the Puerto Rican people, an interference that is all the more reprehensible because it emanates from the left in the very country which holds the Puerto Rican people in colonial domination. To put it as bluntly as circumstances require, the OL campaign is nothing less than an act of national chauvinism.

This is a serious charge and should, therefore, be documented.

The international conference has been seen by virtually the entire Puerto Rican left and the leading sectors of the independence movement as a legitimate and useful step in building worldwide support for the independence struggle. Even groups within Puerto Rico who have important differences on many ideological and strategic questions–including differences around such questions as “detente” and the two superpowers–united in support of the international conference.

Despite the widespread support in the Puerto Rican left for the international assembly, North American groups are not obliged to endorse the action. However, given the political character of the Puerto Rican movement that participated in (and actually were the prime initiators of) the conference, one could say that at the least, a North American political group was obliged to refrain from attacking the efforts of the national liberation movement.

But the OL has not even been diplomatic in its objections. It has, in effect, attempted to make acceptance of its strategy for Puerto Rican independence the condition for U.S. support.

And here an analogy is certainly in order. It is not so long since certain U.S. antiwar groups felt it was their right–indeed their political obligation–to pass judgment on the strategy and tactics of the liberation forces in Vietnam. When the Vietnamese called upon their supporters throughout the world to force the U.S. to sign the Paris Peace Agreement, there were some in the U.S. who took it upon themselves to veto this strategy. They were certainly entitled to their opinions, but when they translated those opinions into a campaign against the Paris peace accords, they were rightfully charged with attempting to obstruct and sabotage the Vietnamese people’s liberation struggle–and with an act of blatant national chauvinism.

The OL’s chauvinist stand towards the Puerto Rican struggle has led it to the point where–in order to justify its indefensible position–it has been forced to develop an “analysis” of the conference which is laced with distortion and which buttresses itself by outright lies.

First to the lies. In the latest issue of the Call (September 1975), the OL says:

1. “The U.S. Support Committee, the main organizing body for the Conference, is composed of half CP members.”

Untrue. Of 20 people who made up the executive board of the support committee, six (less than a third) were designated by the U.S. committee of “World Peace Forces,” the euphemism that the CP adopted for its participants in the body. The difference between six and 10 means the difference between a minority bloc and a controlling half.

2. The OL says that the support committee’s “head is Grace Mora who presently leads the CPUSA’s Puerto Rican Commission.”

Untrue. The political leadership of the committee was a three-person group, of whom one was from the CP. The administrative head of the committee was Ro Reilly, its executive director.

3. The OL: “The delegation chosen by the support committee to represent the U.S. at this bogus conference is composed of one-half CP members.”

Untrue. Readers are referred to last week’s issue of the Guardian which contains the full list of the 20-member U.S. delegation. CP members and sympathizers constituted 25% of the delegation. This is important because the OL, further on in the same article, suggests that the U.S. delegation was not genuinely independent. In fact, it was singularly independent, firmly rejected CP positions on several occasions and made a significant contribution to keeping the Havana conference focused on the objective of militant, nonnegotiable support for Puerto Rican independence.

4. The OL asserts that the “main activity” of the support committee was “promoting speaking engagements for members of the World Peace Council.”

Deceptive. The charge, which never specifies who these World Peace Council members are, suggests that some Soviet hack was giving speeches under the support committee’s auspices. The speaking engagements in question were by Noel Colon Martinez, president of the Puerto Rican Peace Council, head of the Puerto Rican delegation to the international conference, a staunch independence fighter and politically independent. Like a number of other national Peace Councils, the Puerto Rican Peace Council is not under Soviet domination.

These factual distortions, while sufficient to cast a shadow over the OL’s ideological position, reflect something more serious: the abandonment of both a Marxist methodology of political analysis and of a Leninist principle of support of a people’s struggle for self-determination.


In the view of the OL, the entire conference can be summarized as “nothing but a revisionist maneuver.” The OL doesn’t even admit that the conference might have two aspects–and that one aspect of the conference (even if, in the OL’s opinion, this was the “secondary” aspect) might have something positive about it in relation to Puerto Rico’s independence struggle. So much for dialectical analysis.

The fact is that the conference did have two aspects. It is clear from the role played by the Soviet Union, the Eastern European countries, many of the CP-controlled token delegations and international organizations such as the World Peace Council that their objectives were indeed to divert the struggle for Puerto Rican independence into the channels of social pacifism and superpower “detente.” And it is also true that these forces wrested certain ideological concessions from the conference in its final political statement. (Because of these concessions, this delegate abstained from voting on the final document.)

But the other aspect of the conference–and any honest analysis of the meeting will readily demonstrate that this was the main aspect–was a ringing affirmation of support for the liberation struggle of the Puerto Rican people in all its aspects. True, the eagle-eyed will find the word “detente” in the conference’s final statement. But it is clear from the context^-and even clearer from the way in which this was discussed by the Puerto Rican delegation, the U.S. delegation and a number of revolutionary third world delegations (Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, PLO)–that the conference did not express in any measure support for the concept that “detente” was any kind of substitute for armed struggle and national liberation.

Further, it is also clear that the presence of an independent U.S. delegation had a significant effect on the conference’s proceedings as well as its final political statement. Indeed the OL’s proposal for a boycott, if it had succeeded, would have been a self-fulfilling prophecy, leaving the U.S. delegation in the hands of the revisionists and thereby helping to subdue the militant tone of the conference.

The OL’s stance has been reminiscent of the advice a veteran trial attorney once gave an enthusiastic novice. “If the evidence is against you,” the old lawyer told his protege, “talk about the law. If the law is against you,” he went on, “talk about the evidence. And if both the law and the evidence are against you,” he concluded, “pound on the table and yell like hell!”

In its campaign against the strategy of the Puerto Rican independence movement, the OL has been pounding on the table and yelling like hell. But their holier-than-thou charges cannot change either the facts or the fundamental principles involved in the question.