Getting Together Supplement
Learn From Negative Example:
The Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO) (called the Young Lords Party – YLP – until mid-1972) was once one of the leading revolutionary forces which developed out of the great uprisings of the oppressed nationalities during the 1960's. Once a revolutionary organization, the PRRWO, degenerated step by step into an organization which is no longer contributing to the revolutionary movement.
PRRWO's present state is one of being an isolated, ultra-left sect divorced from the masses. Their line has totally descended into a system of bourgeois metaphysics and idealism, completely alien from Marxism-Leninism Mao Tsetung Thought and from the concrete realities of making revolution in the U.S.
How and why did they degenerate into this present state?
PRRWO's demise was the result of many serious mistakes and incorrect decisions made in the course of their history. These errors were left uncorrected and therefore compounded step by step. This gradually corroded their once revolutionary stand, viewpoint and practice. PRRWO increasingly failed to resolve problems and answer pressing questions on the basis of what actually benefited the masses and the revolution, but rather adopted many opportunist lines in rapid succession, uniting with one opportunist force in the communist movement after another. PRRWO completely lost its bearings, its ability to determine what is best for the revolution, and itself sank into consolidated opportunism.
We believe the history of PRRWO's degeneration brings out important lessons for all of us to understand. Their incorrect decisions and lines, their metaphysical and idealist thinking have influenced other people, and other forces have made similar mistakes. It is important to understand what these errors were and what was their basis in order to combat such deviations in the communist movement in the process of forming a genuine communist party.
In this article we will try to describe the step by step degeneration of PRRWO, and show that -their present ultra-left and subjectivist outlook is the culmination of a number of serious errors made by PRRWO over the years. Their present metaphysics and idealism are directly related to erroneous aspects in their ideological and political views which were never corrected.
New Revolutionary Organizations Arise Out of the 1960's
The formation of the Young Lords Party and other revolutionary organizations such as I Wor Kuen, the Red Guard Party and the Black Panther Party in the late 1960's marked a new and significant period in the history of the revolutionary movement in the U.S. Arising out of the spontaneous mass revolts of the oppressed nationalities in that period the new revolutionary forces set out to give conscious leadership to the masses in the revolutionary struggle to overthrow U.S. imperialism.
In the absence of a vanguard communist party to lead the revolutionary movement, the struggle to define what stand and line to guide the young revolutionary movement was very significant. This struggle, in fact, laid the basis for the development of the new anti-revisionist movement.
The Young Lords Party, I Wor Kuen, the Black Panther Party and other revolutionary forces waged a fierce struggle against revisionism and Trotskyism, the organized forces of counter-revolution who under a "socialist" guise, were seeking to undermine the revolutionary movement from within. The new revolutionary forces directly and boldly challenged the revisionist "Communist" Party U.S.A. (CPUSA) and the "left" revisionist or Trotskyite Progressive Labor Party (PLP). Forces such as the Young Lords Party, representing the most advanced sentiments and strivings of the masses for revolution, broke with the chains of revisionism, reformism, social-chauvinism and pacifism. They made contributions in winning over large numbers of people away from the bankrupt leadership and influence of the CPUSA and PLP.
During the late 1960's, these new revolutionary forces already were doing study of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. In particular, they studied and applied the writings of Chairman Mao, learning from the lessons of leading the Chinese revolution and the example of proletarian internationalism. The Black Panther Party, for instance, was known throughout the country for its wide propagation of The Quotations of Chairman Mao, in militant demonstrations, in the streets, in schools and workplaces. Revolutionary organizations conducted study classes on The Quotations and other writings by Chairman Mao, both within their organizations and on a mass scale.
It was especially significant that these young revolutionary organizations integrated basic revolutionary principles with their practice among the masses. Although the study of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought was not yet taken up systematically and these organizations were not Marxist-Leninist, nevertheless they used certain Marxist teachings as a powerful weapon in the battle against the revisionists and Trotskyites.
The revolutionary organizations affirmed that only through mobilizing the masses in militant struggle and finally through the armed struggle to overthrow the state, could a fundamental change in society take place. They propagated widely among the masses the teaching of Chairman Mao that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun," and the masses make history, in opposition to the CPUSA's revisionist theory of "peaceful transition to socialism."
The revolutionary forces fought for the principle that the national movements in the U.S. were profoundly revolutionary and objectively at the vanguard of the class struggle in the 60's. They won over many people to the viewpoint that revolution was the only solution to the oppression of Third World people in the U.S. The revisionist CPUSA, on the other hand, was trying to pose "bourgeois integrationism" and bourgeois reformism, such as reliance on the courts, politicians and government, as a solution At the same time, the Trotskyite PLP was carrying out their line that "all nationalism is reactionary" by attacking the movements of Blacks, Latinos Asians and all Third World people as "dividing the working class." Their 'left" phrase mongering was exposed as thoroughly chauvinist and imperialist in essence to many progressive and revolutionary people.
Internationally, the revolutionary forces stood firmly on the side of the oppressed people fighting imperialism and social imperialism They helped to shatter the myths promoted by the CPUSA that the Soviet Union was an "ally of the national liberation movements," exposing it for the imperialist power that it was. They also exposed as counter-revolutionary the Trotskyite and national-chauvinist stance of the PLP, which condemned the national liberation movements such as in Vietnam as "bourgeois nationalist" and "reactionary." In direct opposition to the PLP, they educated and mobilized the masses in support of the national liberation movement around the world. They showed how the Vietnamese people, in their war of liberation against U.S. aggression, were an ally of the peoples in the U.S., and a powerful revolutionary force internationally. Hundreds of thousands of people were mobilized against the war in the 1960's and early 70's, and revolutionary organizations such as the YLP, IWK and BPP played an important role in exposing the objective stand of the CPUSA and PLP of aiding imperialism.
These and other early struggles over fundamental ideological and political question were important steps in demarcating a revolutionary stand from a revisionist and Trotskyite stand for the young revolutionary movement. There can be no doubt that the main danger in this period to the development of the revolutionary forces was revisionism (the revisionism of the CPUSA and "left" revisionism of the PLP). The revisionist CPUSA and Trotskyite PLP were attempting to attack, subvert from within, and lead down the path of opportunism those young revolutionary forces who were moving towards Marxism Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought.
Young Lords Party of 1969-71
The Young Lords Party (YLP) itself actually formed in 1969. The YLP openly described itself as a "revolutionary political party fighting for the liberation of all oppressed peoples." It saw "armed self-defense and armed struggle as the only means to liberation," and set as its long-range goal the achieving of a "socialist society." (All quotes are from the Young Lords Party 13 Point Program.)
YLP's revolutionary stand was very clear among the masses of people. The YLP stood for serving the masses and for overthrowing U.S imperialism. These revolutionary ideas were spread boldly and widely during this period, primarily in the Black and Puerto Rican communities of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and other East Coast cities. At its high points, the YLP newspaper, Palante, published over 10,000 copies a month.
YLP also participated in the movement for Puerto Rican independence and engaged in many day to day struggles of the Puerto Rican national minority. For example, YLP mobilized against police brutality and harassment, against drug dealers in the Puerto Rican community, and played an important role in exposing the health care system as a system of oppressing the poor. The YLP linked these campaigns to the need for revolution. They supported the People's Republic of China and opposed the Vietnam war. Organizationally, they attempted to develop a disciplined organization of revolutionaries.
But while the YLP had affirmed a basically revolutionary stand in struggle against revisionism and Trotskyism in its early years and had made contributions in doing revolutionary work among the masses of Puerto Rican people, it had not yet fully understood the need to take up Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought as its guiding ideology. The YLP was inexperienced in doing revolutionary work. Within the YLP there also existed petty-bourgeois thinking and styles of work. Consequently, the YLP made some serious mistakes in these early years.
One major error was identifying the lumpen-proletariat as the vanguard of the revolution. The YLP did not have a scientific understanding that the working class is the most thoroughly revolutionary and must lead the socialist revolution.*
* The lumpen-proletariat is the criminal class. However, even the YLP's definition of the lumpen-proletariat was not scientific. They included in their definition certain sectors of the laboring population, such as welfare mothers, unemployed people and youth.
Another error was in identifying themselves as the "political party" of the Puerto Rican people, as if the Puerto Rican national minority in the U.S. needed a separate political party of its own.
The YLP adopted the erroneous "divided nation" theory, which led them to divide their political work between the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and to falsely advocate that Puerto Ricans in the U.S. are part of a "divided nation" of Puerto Rico.
The YLP also committed errors of being overly concerned about their "style" and image. The leaders of YLP, for instance, were often preoccupied with getting their personal pictures in the media, a trait which later developed further into the opportunist deviations of self-cultivation and careerism.
These errors of YLP in the early period were serious ones, and how the YLP struggled to correct them would be important later in YLP's development. However, weighed against the contributions which the YLP made in this period, it is undeniable that the first years of the Young Lords Party were overwhelmingly positive.
Decision to Become a Marxist-Leninist Organization
By 1972, the YLP and other organizations that had developed out of the national struggles underwent a severe test. These organizations had begun to develop deeper ties among the masses and wider political influence; in the course of practice, more complex questions arose.
A pressing question facing the YLP was whether to take up the task of building a single multinational communist party in the U.S. It became more and more apparent to the YLP that without a vanguard communist party, which could unite the advanced revolutionary elements of all nationalities in the U.S., the revolution could not be successful. The young revolutionary movement had to address the problem of reconstituting a genuine communist party and deepen the struggle against revisionism.
At the same time it became necessary for the YLP to sharpen its understanding of the national question in the U.S. The YLP from the beginning had recognized the revolutionary nature of the oppressed nationalities' struggles in this country. But their understanding needed to be deepened as to how the national struggles related to the overall proletarian revolution in the U.S.
Another concrete problem that confronted the YLP was how to advance the work of their community mass organizations which had attracted different class forces, and where different class tendencies existed. The YLP had to answer questions such as which forces to rely upon within these mass organizations, how to unite the different forces, and what political principles should guide the work of these organizations.
These and other questions concerning the goals, character and path of the U.S revolution came sharply to the forefront of the struggle within YLP. In order to move ahead, YLP had to raise its theoretical understanding to a higher level and answer the more complex and new practical problems that they faced as revolutionaries. At the same time, they had to broaden their view of their tasks as revolutionaries in the U.S., and not just view problems on a local basis. Therefore, YLP faced a turning point in their development.
Within the YLP there was a continuing struggle against petty-bourgeois theories of revolution, such as militarist, anarchist, terrorist and cultural nationalist tendencies. These erroneous tendencies had to be defeated in order to move ahead. However, the main danger continued to be the revisionism of the CPUSA and "left" revisionism or Trotskyism of PLP, and communists should analyze this period in relation to combating the main danger.
In 1971, the. Black Panther Party split apart, one side going into terrorism, and the other into reformism. The YLP and IWK, however, went a different route. Based upon the theoretical understanding gained from some study of Marxism, the experiences gained in revolutionary practice and in the struggle against various opportunist tendencies, IWK and YLP decided to become Marxist-Leninist organizations. This was a very good and important development.
But deciding to become Marxist-Leninist is only one step. The actual struggle to practice Marxism-Leninism is not simple. YLP in this period developed a strong tendency to replace Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought with a system of formulas and phrases divorced from the concrete reality of how to advance the revolution and serve the interests of the masses. We believe the roots of PRRWO's present deviations can be traced more clearly to this period.
We made the decision to become a Marxist organization at approximately the same time as YLP, in late 1971. It was in the actual struggle to grasp and apply Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought that the differences between our two organizations sharpened. Our organizations strived to use Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought as a living weapon in moving our work forward, in answering the questions of the direction and nature of the U.S. revolution, in continuing the struggle against opportunism and in deepening our ties with the masses.
YLP Changes Its Name to PRRWO and Allies with the Revolutionary Union
In mid-1972 the YLP held the Young Lords Party Congress and changed its name to the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO). The YLP hoped that this Congress would be an historic milestone in summing up their work, correcting errors and moving forward in advancing the revolution and taking up the task of building a new communist party. However, serious errors developed out of this Congress. The primary one was their adoption of the opportunist line of the Revolutionary Union (RU).
The RU – A Right Opportunist Force
The Revolutionary Union (RU), now called the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) came out of the student movement and split-offs from the Progressive Labor Party (PLP). It called itself a communist organization. It formed in 1968, and soon after formed branches across the country and published its theoretical journal called the Red Papers.
By 1972, the RU was already characterized by a strong right deviation. It tended to tail behind the objective development of the mass movements rather than lead them. The RU promoted the idea that workers were interested only in "bread and butter" issues and should not develop the understanding of revolution or Marxism-Leninism. The RU preferred to take the path of least resistance. This path was one of no struggle, of not confronting contradictions and sought to lead the working class by conciliating with bourgeois reformism and national chauvinism.
The RU worshipped the spontaneous workers movement for its demands for such things as higher wages, and pitted this "revolutionary workers movement," as they called it, against the political struggles of the oppressed nationalities. The RU refused to fight against national oppression and had a chauvinist stand towards the oppressed nationalities.
YLP Congress – PRRWO Repudiates Its Past History
At the YLP Congress in 1972, the YLP adopted the RU's line, including its liquidation of the revolutionary significance of the national struggles. The first step in this was necessarily a repudiation, under the guise of "self-criticism," of all of PRRWO's past work. In documents issued out of the 1972 YLP Congress, YLP changed its name to PRRWO, slandered its own past as being "left extremism," and claimed it had a "left opportunist line" The YLP said it should be criticized for "nationalism and confusion." This one-sided self-criticism negated the revolutionary work that YLP had done over the years among the Puerto Rican masses and in the entire revolutionary movement.
The RU fostered the PRRWO "self-criticism" because of their own chauvinist and opportunist standpoint, since their line itself negated the revolutionary significance of the national struggles. PRRWO's "self-criticism," underneath the guise of being "bold" and "exemplary," was in actuality thoroughly metaphysical and idealist.
It was metaphysical because it did not view YLP's history dialectically in the correct historical context. A correct dialectical view of YLP's history would have recognized both positive and negative aspects. It would have recognized that the positive aspects were definitely primary. It would have criticized past errors by tracing their roots and planning how they could be corrected. It would have seen how the positive aspects of YLP's past could be built upon and further developed all within the context of how they could make a greater contribution to the revolution.
PRRWO's self-criticism was idealist because it judged their past not within the concrete context of the revolutionary struggle that was occurring at the time, but from the idealist standpoint of whether it fit into their newly learned "formulas." These "formulas" newly learned from the RU, were not Marxism at all, but a caricature of Marxist principles. PRRWO for example adopted the RU's mechanical "five anti-imperialist spearheads," five general demands which the RU believed covered all areas of mass struggle. PRRWO imposed these general demands onto every issue instead of making an analysis of each particular struggle and leading these struggles in a revolutionary way by practicing the mass line As a result PRRWO assessed its own history and impact totally divorced from the material world, divorced from the reality of what YLP had contributed to the revolution and what concrete impact it had made. PRRWO judged its own history from that idealist viewpoint that since it did not have all the answers at the time and had not been Marxist-Leninist, then everything they did must have been wrong, non-revolutionary, and had to be thrown aside.
IWK attended the YLP Congress in the spirit of building unity with other Marxist-Leninist organizations. During the Congress and afterwards, we struggled with the leadership of PRRWO. We raised our criticisms of the RU line and practice as we understood it at the time, citing examples from our own experience of how the RU advocated tailing after the leadership of petty-bourgeois reformists in the Chinese nationality and opposed bringing revolutionary ideas to the masses. However, PRRWO, impressed with the RU's "theoretical development," refused to analyze more seriously the RU line.
PRRWO's self-criticism was in effect a reversal of correct verdicts which YLP and other revolutionary organizations had decided regarding the national question in the 1960's. The idea that the national struggles were counterposed to and at a "lower level" than the struggle of the working class for economic demands was similar to both the revisionist line of the CPUSA and the Trotskyite line of PLP.
PRRWO's inability to use Marxism-Leninism to discern right from wrong and their inability to accurately sort out the past and determine whether what they had worked for over the past years was even positive or not caused them to make other serious errors soon after.
The National Liaison Committee
During the YLP 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.
1974 – PRRWO Unites With Communist League and Its National Continuations Committee
By 1974, only shortly after breaking with the RU, the PRRWO, as well as some other groups including the BWC united with the Trotskyite Communist League (CL) and its National Continuations Committee (NCC), supposedly to build a new communist party. This decision on the part of the PRRWO showed that even though it had broken with the RU, it had not successfully rectified its errors and gotten onto a correct Marxist-Leninist path.
PRRWO's unity with the CL reflected their further move towards full-blown opportunism and idealism, for the CL clearly was not based on Marxist-Leninist dialectical and historical materialism. CL's reactionary line was developed and well-known to the communist movement before the NCC began. In "Dialectics of the Development of the Communist League," the CL openly promoted Hegelian idealism which viewed the communist movement and the world as the evolution simply of ideas, denying the existence of a material world and its primary role in determining man's consciousness.
The CL held the reactionary view which called "socialist" the social-imperialist superpower -Soviet Union and condemned the national liberation struggles of the Third World as tied to imperialism. CL maintained the revisionist view that there was a progressive wing of the U.S. bourgeoisie which communists should unite with. On the national question too, the CL cooked up a completely opportunist view. As with their politics, the CL had a thoroughly bourgeois style of work, which included the rote memorization of Marxist-Leninist articles and phrases. The CL, too was known for its provocative physical assaults on communist and mass organizations at individuals.
Although all this was known to PRRWO, they still joined the National Continuations Committee because PRRWO supposedly had "the spirit of party building to further train cadres to be genuine Bolsheviks, in the interest of the proletariat." PRRWO also admitted to being "impressed particularly with their [CL's] training of cadre." (In the U.S. Pregnant with Revisionism: The Struggle for Proletarian Revolution Moves Ahead.) What these words show, however, is PRRWO's metaphysics and idealism, which separated party building from political line.
PRRWO rationalized that the NCC could be a genuine communist party building effort in spite of the CL's revisionist line and practice. PRRWO was "impressed" with the dogmatist style of the CL cadre who were carrying out CL's opportunist line. PRRWO separated the development of communist cadre from what line they upheld in practice, and promoted "style of work" in a self-cultivationist way.
PRRWO at this time was already strongly inclined towards the opportunism of self-cultivationism, which puts one's personal development (or the "cadre's" development) above making revolution and makes decisions (and excuses errors) by using the rationalization of the "furthering tempering" of the cadre.
This cultivationist view, for example, is expressed in the introduction of Pregnant with Revisionism, where they state, "One aspect of our movement is our amateurishness, unpreparedness, a definite lack of theoretical clarity on the burning questions of our day, a hasty grasp of the lessons drawn by the international proletariat, a beginning under standing of the correct relationship of the objective and subjective factors of the revolution, etc."
"The other aspect of our movement, and this is the side in motion, is the maturing of our movement, the struggle to become professional revolutionaries, devoting our lives entirely to the education and organization of the proletariat to achieve its goal" (emphasis added).
This is a self-cultivationist view for it puts "self" first, not revolution. To evaluate the development of the communist movement, we would have to evaluate the progress of the integration of Marxism-Leninism with the practice of revolution in this country, the linking of the communist and mass movement, and not focus solely on "our theoretical clarity." The PRRWO view is a subjectivist view, which understands the world only from its personal or organizational standpoint, not objectively from the standpoint of the proletariat.
PRRWO Leaves National Continuations Committee
PRRWO eventually broke its ties with the CL and left the National Continuations Committee in 1974. PRRWO presented its own reasons for leaving the NCC in its pamphlet, Pregnant with Revisionism.
PRRWO opportunistically rationalizes why it left the NCC. They state that it had "discovered that CL's line attacked China and defended the Soviet Union as socialist. PRRWO wanted to "struggle" with CL over these points, but CL wanted to impose democratic centralism on all organizations in the NCC based on CL's line. PRRWO could not agree with this, and split. Their reason for the split was that there as no room to struggle for unity as if it is correct to struggle for unity with a revisionist organization.
PRRWO then goes on to say that it was wrong to enter the NCC in the first place. "To expose the CL's treacherous line and sham attempt to build the party, it was not necessary to join the NCC. CL has been out there for everyone to see for years (our emphasis)." But this is not the original reason why PRRWO joined the NCC! PRRWO joined the NCC to unite with the CL, not to expose them. PRRWO joined the NCC "in the spirit of unity to build the party," and deliberately chose to "investigate" CL's line from inside CL's own party building alliance.
Rather than going to the roots of this error to analyze why they had sympathy with CL's line and dogmatism, self-cultivationist style of work, PRRWO just listed some empty excuses. They stated that only in the midst of the NCC did PRRWO "begin to clearly examine" the line of CL; and that "we recognize that our responsibility was to have studied the CL line thoroughly, engaged in polemics over the burning questions facing the communist movement and proletarian revolution. Most especially, we should have studied what period we were in and the concrete road ahead toward party building."
A thorough evaluation of such a major deviation as uniting with the CL should have included a serious study of the circumstances that led to the decision, and the actual unity in the outlook, line and style of PRRWO and CL. PRRWO should have assessed what originally attracted them to CL in order that they could root out those erroneous aspects in their own organization.
The actual roots of PRRWO's errors lay in its developing "ultra-left" line and metaphysics. After its split with the RU, PRRWO was disoriented and without bearings. PRRWO was without mass ties and lacked a coherent grasp of reality. PRRWO tried to overcome these weaknesses through seeking answers increasingly just from book study. It therefore became susceptible to the dogmatist style of CL and its "cadre training."
Politically, PRRWO also was developing a consistent ultra-left line such as denying the stage of winning national independence in the Puerto Rican revolution and calling for socialist revolution as the immediate objective. In its propaganda and agitation work it in practice mainly issued general slogans for the dictatorship of the proletariat and general calls to build a new communist party. It liquidated much of its remaining mass work and further retreated from integrating with the masses.
PRRWO could have corrected its ways after splitting with the CL if it had struggled and faced its serious weaknesses. Because it did not, it was destined to commit the same errors, become more erratic and finally, totally degenerate. And this is what happened next with PRRWO and the "revolutionary wing."
1975-1976 – PRRWO, WVO and the Revolutionary Wing
In late 1974 and early 1975 after breaking with the CL, PRRWO continued to consolidate its opportunist and metaphysical and idealist tendencies. PRRWO therefore quickly became attracted to WVO which had similar tendencies.
WVO is a split-off from the Trotskyite PLP. From its inception, WVO pawned off its opportunist line behind posing as "Marxist theoreticians" and "leaders of the theory trend." In fact, WVO's objective was to replace revolutionary Marxism with its own revisionist "theoretical system" and its idealist "premises." (See IWK Journal #3.) To promote itself, WVO tried to rewrite the history of the revolutionary movement in the U.S. and to disorient the revolutionary forces by confusing right and wrong. All this became part of the foundation of the self-proclaimed "revolutionary wing," composed of PRRWO, WVO, ATM and the Revolutionary Workers League. This revolutionary alliance lasted until the spring of l976 when at that time, it split apart.
The Basis of Unity of the "Revolutionary Wing"
Some forces in the communist movement simply called the "wing" an unprincipled bloc, pointing out that many differences existed among the various forces in the "wing," such as on the international situation, women's question, trade union work and others. Yes, there were real differences among them, but the "wing" also had a definite basis of unity. If there had been no unity at all, there could not have been this alliance. Being an unprincipled alliance does not negate the fact that they had some basis for being an alliance, and in order to draw lessons from this negative example, it is necessary to analyze this basis.
We believe that several things held the "wing" together. Principal among them were metaphysics, idealism and careerism, aspects we have traced in the development of PRRWO. These serious deviations from Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought were manifested in their unity in frenzied attempts at proclaiming themselves the new center of the U.S. communist movement, the "vanguard" on the verge of forming a party, their idealist list of Bolshevik qualities which supposedly distinguished the "revolutionary wing" from the "opportunist wing," their rewriting of the history of the revolutionary movement, and their metaphysical and distorted "key link theory."
The Idealist "Bolshevik Qualities" of the "Revolutionary Wing"
The wing" held as a basis of unity a common idealist conception of certain so-called "Bolshevik qualities" which distinguished themselves from the rest of the communist movement. These "qualities" were such things as "honesty," "willingness to make self-criticism" and "repudiation," "accepting theory as the leading factor" and "standing on open polemics."
The wing's conception of these qualities was idealist, for they raised them divorced from discussing them in relation to moving the revolution forward. They raised these qualities as if they could be discussed unrelated to one's stand and impact on the real world.
For example, genuine revolutionary honesty is a characteristic of those who in theory and in practice selflessly contribute to the revolution. The "wing's" conception however was a bourgeois and idealist one, for they held that "honesty" was a characteristic above class struggle and a trait they could bestow on whomever they wished. Of course, they were always honest. Such a view inevitably leads to confusion and subjectivism, and this is what happened with the wing: the various groups in the wing could never arrive at unity on who was "honest" and "dishonest." Their evaluations of the ''honesty" and "dishonesty" of other groups would change from week to week. The "wing's" self-proclaimed "honesty" was actually dishonesty, It was deception to cover over their unprincipled alliance and to proclaim their own unequaled Bolshevik qualities.
In a like way, the "wing" looked at "self-criticism and repudiation" divorced from class struggle. For the "wing," "self-criticism" was a mechanism to "prove" your "honesty" and temper yourself, not to derive truth and correct errors. "Wing" forces did not care whether an organization made correct "self-criticism," just so long as it made a criticism. Viewed in such a way, it is obvious that "self-criticism" could not strengthen the revolution but only weaken it. PRRWO in particular practiced "self-criticism" only to criticize what was positive and correct about the past and to make excuses for its errors including why it repeatedly united with major opportunist forces in the communist movement. The "wing's" view of self-criticism has led them to their well-known flip-flopping, changing their positions from one day to the next and excusing their irrationality by making "self-criticism and repudiation" of their previous views This was nothing more than making "self-criticism" in order not to make any real self-criticism.
"Theory as the Leading Factor"
The "wing's" declaration that it alone took "theory as the leading factor" in the revolution really meant only taking their own "theory" as the leading factor, especially WVO's revisionist theory.
Theory is very important to the revolutionary movement, for it must guide and serve our practice. What we need, though, is genuine Marxist-Leninist theory, not the type of theory which the "wing" tried to pawn off to replace Marxism-Leninism. WVO in particular has the ambition of nothing less than replacing Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought with their own idealist and metaphysical system. WVO, for example, has the audacity to claim that its own "theoretical premises" and not Marxism-Leninism and class struggle are the "only safeguard against degeneration, the only guarantee to detect shades and forms of revisionism, defeat its particular manifestations and repudiate it as an integral whole." (WV, V. 2, No. 1, p. 27) All those communists who would not accept WVO's theoretical leadership were naturally labeled "empiricists." Such was the "revolutionary wing's" so-called "theory as the leading factor."
And when the "wing" talked about engaging in "polemics," they were never concerned with bringing clarity to the questions facing the communist movement, nor with seeking to unite Marxist-Leninists around a correct line. They conducted polemics as ends in themselves. The objective of the "wing's" polemics was to attack other communist forces so that they could maintain their self-proclaimed "vanguard" title. This is evident when we examine the results of the "polemics" conducted by the "wing" (with themselves and with other forces) – what questions, what clarity have the "wing's" polemics accomplished? There has been none, and in fact, the "wing's" polemics have caused only confusion, the spreading of anti-Marxist views and splittism.
The "wing's" "Bolshevik qualities" only succeeded in mocking genuine proletarian honesty, self-criticism, Marxist-Leninist theory and polemics which the working class does not separate from the class struggle for revolution. The "wing" can only genuinely claim to have promoted self-cultivation, sectarianism, metaphysics and idealism.
The Wing's Analysis of the History of the Revolutionary Movement
PRRWO, WVO and the "wing" also tried to rewrite the history of the revolutionary movement in order to bolster their own claims to be the "revolutionary vanguard This rewriting actually labeled good things bad and bad things good.
According to PRRWO and WVO, the 1960's was simply a period of "eclecticism" or spontaneity – groups such as YLP, IWK and others made little or no contributions to the revolutionary movement In fact, this is nothing hut a slander of much of the origin of the anti-revisionist communist movement.
In the 1960's the main struggle was between, on the one hand, the revolutionaries represented by such groups as the YLP, IWK, BPP and groups from other sectors of society, and on the other hand, the revisionists of the CPUSA and the Trotskyites of the PLP. The new revolutionary groups, though young and immature, represented a great vital force, a historic break with the bourgeois politics that had chained the revolutionary movement. The analysis of these groups and that period must be that they were overwhelmingly positive and stood for all that was revolutionary; and the analysis of groups such as PLP must remain that they were thoroughly counter-revolutionary.
The young revolutionary groups made the first big contribution to the anti-revisionist communist movement, something which the present communist movement should never forget. In opposition to the opportunists, they stood for revolution, not reformism; for internationalism, not national chauvinism; for the revolutionary significance of the national struggles, and not their liquidation.
But what was the purpose of the "wing's" rewriting of this history? For PRRWO it was part of their attempt to justify the repudiation of their history and their rationalization for liquidating their previous work, especially in the Puerto Rican movement. It was also an attempt to elevate their role throughout the history of the communist movement to the position of "vanguard in the struggle against opportunism," and negate the fact that they had united with one opportunist force after another.
For WVO, on the other hand, in order to proclaim themselves the vanguard of the communist movement, it had to slander the struggle against PLP, the direct predecessor of WVO, and prettify PLP's Trotskyism. Thus, this rewriting of the history of the revolutionary movement served to enable WVO to resurrect PLP's counter-revolutionary and thoroughly reactionary Trotskyite line.
Closely related to this rewriting of the history of the revolutionary movement was PRRWO and the "Wing's" "profound" key link theory. In actuality, this "theory" was simply a further rationale of their histories and a reflection of their metaphysics.
PRRWO formulated the "key link" theory which incorrectly defined the stages that the movement for a new communist party has gone through. This "theory" stated that the first stage, roughly from 1957-1972, was when the "key link" was the "struggle to reaffirm the ideology of the proletariat, dialectical and historical materialism" (PRRWO, Party Building in the Heat of Class Struggle, p. 28), while the "key link" after 1972 was the application of Marxism-Leninism to concrete conditions. This view justified their separation of ideology and politics, and their own long-term divorce from social practice.
PRRWO erroneously believed that one can arbitrarily separate the "reaffirmation" of the general principles of Marxism-Leninism from their application. They used this rationale for their past dogmatism, and their inability to practice Marxism.
In contrast, we believe that all our work should be judged by whether or not it proceeds from Marxist-Leninist dialectical and historical materialism, and whether or not it proceeds from the basic interests of the proletarian revolution and the interests of the masses of oppressed and exploited peoples.
The "key link" formulation was also used to explain why there were so many contradictory views within the 'wing." They simply stated that they had "ideological unity" yet had "political disunity." They had "unity around Marxism-Leninism" but had "disunity around its application to concrete conditions." This is an absurd mockery of Marxism-Leninism.
The "key link" theory like all of the "wing's" concoctions did not place attention on one's actual line and stand in the revolution or on helping to "give the movement confidence, the power of orientation and an understanding of the inner relations of surrounding events." (Stalin, Foundations of Leninism.) Rather, the "wing" developed formulations to rationalize their own history or popularize their metaphysical view of the revolution.
The "Revolutionary Wing" Disintegrates
Careerism and metaphysics are no foundation for lasting unity. By early 1976, the "revolutionary wing" split apart. Differences that had always been present erupted into fundamental contradictions.
The metaphysics which bound the "wing" together now turned into its opposite and became a basis for their disunity. The "honest" forces of the "genuine revolutionary wing" became the most "dishonest forces." The "staunch comrades" of this or that group became the "vacillators" and "hegemones." The "comrades who do Bolshevik self-criticism" became "philistines in struggle." The "leading communist forces" became the "leading revisionist forces," all in spite of the fact that none of the forces had fundamentally altered its line.
How could such a turnabout take place so rapidly? In the first place, because the revolutionary wing was based on subjectivism. This subjectivism is petty bourgeois ideology which by nature is volatile and erratic. This outlook is one of vacillation and inconsistency, for it has no firm grasp of the laws of development. It allows them to rapidly accept and just as rapidly discard principles and policies at will.
Secondly both the leadership of PRRWO and WVO are marked by ambitious careerism, each wishing to proclaim itself the leading force of the communist movement. Since the split up of the "wing," this is in fact exactly what each of them has done. PRRWO now proclaims itself the "Leninist core of the Bolshevik party" and WVO calls itself the vanguard of the "theory trend," the "proletarian headquarters" which has been "correct for nine years" (i.e., since the days of PLP).
Since the break up of the "wing," PRRWO has not drawn any lessons for themselves nor tried to correct what originally led them into such a series of opportunist alliances. PRRWO has basically ignored this question and has moved in a further dogmatist and sectarian direction.
PRRWO's Present "Line"
PRRWO's descent into subjectivism and metaphysics has led to taking increasingly erroneous stands on every question. On the national liberation struggles internationally, PRRWO has negated their importance to the world revolutionary movement. PRRWO advocates a one-stage revolution for Puerto Rico, and does not recognize that Puerto Rico, as an underdeveloped country and a colony of the U.S., must first win its independence from imperialism before it can have a socialist revolution.
PRRWO believes that the working class has no allies in making revolution. They do not see the interrelationship of different classes and sectors of U.S. society which are also oppressed by monopoly capitalism. They do not even see the role of the oppressed nationalities in the overthrow of capitalism.
PRRWO's newspaper, now called Bolshevik and the organ of the so-called "Revolutionary Wing," contributes nothing to linking Marxism-Leninism with the revolution in the U.S. It only serves to inflate the "Wing's" own self-image as the "Bolshevik core," by striking at their opponents with empty verbiage and name-calling.
Increasingly, PRRWO has become more and more extreme, divorced from reality, and took stands against the masses' interests. In the workers strike at Gouverneur, for example, PRRWO told the workers that "under capitalism, you can't get anything out of strikes." PRRWO opposed the militant actions of the workers on the grounds that anything short of revolution was helping to preserve capitalism.
PRRWO talks in absolutes. Party building to PRRWO is not the central task of communists, but the "central and only task" (one of the principles of unity of PRRWO today). PRRWO counterposes any involvement in mass struggle to party building.
It is not surprising that PRRWO has greatly diminished in size and influence in the communist movement. A line such as their present line can do nothing but further isolate them. Rather than finding PRRWO dismayed, they write about how good this isolation is, since it shows how "pure" they are and to them proves how "correct" they must be.
Since 1972, PRRWO's line has deteriorated step-by-step, and this deterioration in their line has corresponded with the disintegration of their entire organization and its influence among the masses.
Summary and Lessons
In order to draw lessons from the negative example of PRRWO's degeneration, it is important to understand the historical circumstances and what were the ideological and political bases of their errors.
The YLP's emergence from the national movement of the Puerto Rican people was not an accident. The national movements in this country, responding to the brutal national oppression by the bourgeoisie, has and will in the future produce revolutionaries dedicated to fight national oppression and make revolution. These advanced elements from the national movements can become outstanding leaders of the masses in making proletarian revolution when they come to grasp Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought and see that the end of national oppression can only come about through the unity of the oppressed nationalities and the working class to put an end to the rule of the monopoly capitalists.
YLP was once an example of an organized force of revolutionaries. It was once a leading example and an inspiration to many. However, the revolution is a constant process. While PRRWO attempted to advance, it committed some serious errors, beginning with its unity with the RU. During this period, PRRWO adopted the RU line, repudiated its history and developed serious metaphysical and idealist tendencies. These were errors which they never corrected. Step by step, PRRWO degenerated and in the relatively short period of time since their 1972 YLP Congress, PRRWO has become an opportunist force, no longer standing for the interests of the revolution.
PRRWO's degeneration was due to the many incorrect lines it adopted, the subjectivism in its outlook, its cutting of ties with the masses, and careerism in its leadership. In this way PRRWO increasingly lost its bearings and fell more and more into opportunism.
PRRWO s degeneration was also due in part to the influence of opportunist forces and attacks by the bourgeoisie who were pressuring PRRWO to develop in a wrong direction. The bourgeoisie knows the great potential of the national movements and of communist ideas and sent its agents to attack and infiltrate PRRWO, to smash or subvert it. Within the communist movement too, there are forces that have a deep hatred of the national movements, such as the RU and WVO. These opportunist forces also wish to discredit or undermine the revolutionary forces from the national movements. They tried to do this by using dual tactics. On the one hand, they used intimidation of PRRWO. They used their opportunist "theory" as a club to bring the YLP under their influence. These opportunists also promoted that it was "narrow" and "bad" and "anti-working class" to have come out of the national movements. PRRWO capitulated and condemned its own background to adopt the line of the RU, CL and then WVO.
On the other hand, the opportunists used "soft" tactics on PRRWO appealing to careerism. The opportunists flashed money or promises of high leadership positions in the "party-to-be" to influence PRRWO.
From this history of PRRWO, we believe there are some important general lessons to be drawn:
1) It is necessary for revolutionaries to develop a good grasp of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought in order to distinguish genuine revolutionary theory from opportunist theory. PRRWO's mechanical, superficial and one-sided understanding of theory was partially responsible for PRRWO's infatuation with the RU Red Papers and WVO's Journals and CL's writings on party building.
Developing a good grasp of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought means constantly striving to link theory and practice, to study Marxism in order to use it. This was something that PRRWO never fully understood. Instead, PRRWO viewed theory in a metaphysical and idealist way. PRRWO did not see that theory must guide practice, and pitted theory against practice. Marxism to PRRWO was something that could be easily learned (almost overnight) simply by reading some books. This was a basic reason for their unity with major opportunist tendencies in the communist movement.
2) Revolutionaries must constantly strive to improve their ties with the masses. PRRWO's rapid decline was due largely to their divorce from the masses. Once cutting their ties with the masses and ending their mass work, PRRWO was no longer able to see what was in the best interests of the masses and the revolution. This caused them to lose their bearings, and because they never understood the roots of this error or even that it was an error in the first place, they were never able to regain their revolutionary footing in reality.
Now that PRRWO sees party building as the only task, PRRWO's party building plan has no foundation. PRRWO has no means of uniting with the advanced workers to develop them as communists and members of the new party. PRRWO has no means of assessing the concrete conditions and forces in society to develop a correct direction, line and program. Without this understanding and these ties with the masses. PRRWO will be unable to ever contribute toward building a new party no matter how much they talk about it to themselves.
3) The degeneration of PRRWO shows us that degeneration does not take place quickly overnight, but is a step-by-step process. Quantitative errors mount up to a qualitative change to opportunism if the errors are not corrected. With each uncorrected error, PRRWO fell deeper into an opportunist direction.
PRRWO's errors stem in part from their petty bourgeois outlook. This outlook was one source of PRRWO's instability. Erratic, bounding from right deviations to 'left" deviations, to right deviations once again; tailing one opportunist force after another, flipping from superficial optimism to pessimism – these are all indications of this deeply erroneous outlook.
This outlook is unstable; it is not objective but subjectivist. In other words it is one-sided and does not does grasp the dialectics of the development of the world. It imposes its own perspectives and solutions upon reality.
In PRRWO's case this is evident in their reliance on mechanical formulas and their self-cultivationist approach to all matters. The subjectivist outlook does not proceed from the objective interests of the revolution and the masses but rather from what serves its own narrow and immediate particular interests. PRRWO increasingly analyzed the revolution and the world not from the objective perspective of the proletariat but rather from its own needs to enhance its image, rationalize its errors or prove its own claim of always being the vanguard.
There is no guarantee that a revolutionary group will forever remain revolutionary as the example of PRRWO proves. Degeneration into opportunism may take place rapidly if serious errors are committed and not corrected, and PRRWO's failure to do so should serve as an important lesson for the communist movement.
Revolutionaries should learn from this the importance of constantly battling deviations in our own ranks and in the entire communist movement, of exposing the roots of these deviations and correcting them in theory and in practice. Only by waging a vigorous struggle against opportunism and striving to base all of our thinking and actions firmly upon Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought and upon the interests of the masses, can we succeed in building a genuine communist party and in making the greatest possible contribution to the revolution.
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