Jim Blaut's note to me about the piece below stated inter alia: "The only piece on the national question that I have on disk is the following. It is a translation of one section of a book, Aspectos de la cuestión nacional en Puerto Rico, by J. M. Blaut and Loida Figueroa (San Juan: Editorial Claridad, 1988; Copyright 1988 by Claridad.) Stalin's essay on the national question is not mentioned here but a large part of his theory is discussed, and Lenin's revision of the theory is also discussed.".


Mark Jones




Marxists Who Oppose Independence


In 1983 an article entitled "Marxismo o independentismo socialista?" -- "Marxism or socialist independentism?" -- appeared in the Puerto Rican journal Pensamiento Critico, under the joint authorship of the Colectivo Socialista de San Juan (CSSJ)./79 In this article the CSSJ declared itself opposed to the struggle for independence in the present era, and declared that Marxism is incompatible with national struggle. The article caused a stir in the Puerto Rican left, and beyond the left, because this was the first time in perhaps 30 years that any Puerto Rican Marxists had expressed opposition to independence. Did this perhaps reflect a growing trend? Suspicion that this might be the case was fueled by the fact that some other small left sectors had been denouncing, since around 1977, what they considered to be the "bourgeois nationalism" of the Puerto Rican left and in particular the two major parties, the social-democratic Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) and the Marxist Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP). Another source of concern was the fact that the CSSJ position seemed to echo a view that was becoming increasingly popular among Marxists of metropolitan countries -- as memories of the Vietnam era receded -- that anti-colonial, anti- imperialist struggles are inconsequential, backward, and "bourgeois," that they are "merely nationalism" and not "class struggle."


Two years earlier a long theoretical article entitled "The National Question: Some Neglected Theses," by K. A. Santiago, had appeared in the CSSJ journal, Proceso./80 The substance of Santiago's article was an argument designed to demonstrate that Lenin in particular, and Marxism in general, would necessarily oppose national struggles of the Puerto Rican sort. The argument consisted largely of a long string of quotations from Lenin, interspersed with Santiago's interpretive commentaries. This article, which gave a critique of national struggle purely in terms of Marxist theory (or what Santiago declared to be Marxist theory) was instrumental in persuading the CSSJ to take its negative position on the independence struggle in Puerto Rico. The CSSJ's later position paper, "Marxismo o socialismo independentista?" mainly consisted of a summary of the supposedly Leninist position on the national question which Santiago had presented earlier, along with a florid denunciation of the entire Puerto Rican left for its "nationalism" or "social- patriotism," and along with a very strange attempt to argue that any genuine Marxist who accepts Lenin's version of Marxist theory must refuse to fight for the establishment of any kind of state whatever, be it colonial, metropolitan, capitalist, or socialist: a sort of anarcho-Leninism, if such a thing can be conceived.


In the following paragraphs I will criticize first Santiago's article, then the later CSSJ position paper. The basic thrust of both is to apply the ideas of Lenin to the case of Puerto Rico. They try to prove, in essence, that the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico would not be viewed as progressive in the framework of Lenin's theory of national struggles.


It is important, at this point, that I explain why I have chosen to provide a critique of this position on the national question in the present essay. What we are concerned with here is not "Leninism" in a political sense, nor is it Leninist theory in general. It is the specific theory about the nature of colonialism and the nature of anti-colonial liberation struggles which was developed by Lenin in the period 1915-1922 and has been adopted by Marxists of all tendencies, and by essentially all Third World Marxists, since that time. This theory became an important foundation for most of the anti-colonial struggles throughout the Third World, including even struggles which were in most other respects quite distant from Marxism. The anti-colonial analyses and strategies of, for instance, Cabral, DuBois, Fanon, Guevara, Ho Chi Minh, C.L.R. James, Mariategui, J. Nehru, Nkrumah, Nyerere, Padmore, Sukarno, E. Williams, and many other Third World leaders and analysts, with many different and indeed contradictory political positions, were grounded in the Leninist perspective. Why so? Because Lenin's theory, unlike all previous formulations -- including those of Marx as well as those of conservative thinkers -- defined the struggle for national independence in colonies as essential for these colonies, as the only political course of action which would bring an end to oppression and economic misery; and defined these struggles as inherently progressive, as the politics of the struggles of working people for social justice; and showed why such anti-colonial struggles would win. The fact is not always appreciated that Marxists before that time really did not believe that colonized people would be able to win independence, and really did not believe that their struggles were central to the worldwide struggle for socialism, while conservatives, then as now, treated colonialism as the benign spread of "civilization" to the "savages" and treated anti- colonial movements as irrational, atavistic, anti- modern, and anti-progress. It is fair to say that Lenin's formulations of 1915-22 were the first, and key, body of theory to completely disprove both of these other perspectives, perspectives in which colonialism and anti-colonialism were viewed as somewhat unimportant and atavistic. Thus most anti- colonialist forces adopted the Leninist theory without in all cases acknowledging the source of the theory. Today, moreover, a large body of social theory is influenced by this perspective: it includes not only anti-imperialist theories, but also "dependency theory" and much of "world systems theory," along with a number of new approaches to Third World history and new critiques of Eurocentrism and neocolonialism./81


On the other hand, some Marxists today do not accept the validity of this theory of colonialism and anti-colonialism. They return to the very different theory held by Marx and some others (notably Rosa Luxemburg), that colonialism is a backward process, merely a delayed modernization of peripheral regions, and that anti-colonialism is intrinsically unimportant and (for Luxemburg) no longer even progressive: it is belated diffusion of the old "bourgeois revolution," and therefore not part of the class struggle for socialism.


I have tried to show that the views of Quintero- Rivera, Bonilla, and some other Puerto Rican thinkers discussed in previous sections of this book, tend to conform more closely to the older Marxist (and somewhat Luxemburgian) perspective than to the Leninist theory or any of its modern derivatives. These views, for this reason, do not give adequate attention to the contradictions of colonialism and they are unduly pessimistic about the possibility of liberation.


But Santiago and the Collective present us with another sort of problem: an interpretation of Marxist theory which is neither Marxist nor progressive. Their view is that Marxism adopted the Leninist perspective on colonialism but that Lenin did not define colonialism in the way I have described and did not define the anti-colonial national struggle as important and progressive. This view, which is professed by some metropolitan Marxists as well as Santiago and the CSSJ, is a total reversal of the Leninist theory. If their interpretation is right, the Third World as a whole has been wrong for more than half a century, wrong about its theory and wrong about its practice. Hence the need, here, to analyze and criticize the Santiago-CSSJ claim that Marxism is somehow incompatible with the struggle for independence.


Santiago's "Return to Lenin"


Santiago begins his essay "The National Question: Some Neglected Theses," with the admission that everyone in the independence struggle today believes that one cannot be an independentista without being a socialista, and vice versa (p. 2).*


But this is erroneous, says Santiago; for him this slogan has the stamp of an anti-proletarian class position, and he will prove so by returning to the point of view of Lenin on the national question.


By means of this "return to Lenin" we will [demonstrate] the false -- or at least dubious -- Marxism of our entire tradition and our entire independentista-socialista movement...We believe that Lenin, in this matter, has synthesized and improved upon the views of Marx, and this synthesis-advancement openly contradicts the conceptions, and most of all the actions, of [Marxists] within the patriotic movement" (pp. 2- 3).


Santiago's basic strategy is to apply the conceptions held by Lenin to the case of Puerto Rico. He will try to show, in essence, that the independence struggle is inconsistent with Lenin's theory of national struggle - - a powerful argument in Puerto Rico, as anywhere else in the Third World, given the virtual consensus among Marxists here that Lenin's position on the national question is the Marxist position on the national question. Santiago will seek to apply to Puerto Rico the views expressed by Lenin in 1903-1916 regarding oppressed nations of Eastern Europe. The link, for Santiago, is the fact that, although Puerto Rico is a colony, it possesses a proletariat, as did eastern Europe.


But Santiago's "return to Lenin" is not that at all. It is a return to Rosa Luxemburg, and to the Luxemburgian antagonism toward national movements which Lenin repeatedly attacked in critical essays directed at her, and at others (like Bukharin and Radek) who agreed with her./82 How does one accomplish the task of using Lenin's words against Lenin? There is a standard formula for doing so in matters related to the national question. One uses early Lenin against late Lenin, because Lenin's earlier views on the national question were in some respects similar to Luxemburg's views. He differed with her in his support for the right of self-determination of nations, but this is quite different from supporting existing national movements. Luxemburg opposed all such movements; Lenin, in that period, held out the possibility -- nothing more -- that viable and progressive national movements might emerge and warrant the support of Marxists. And he shared with her, and with all Marxist theoreticians in that pre-World-War period, a common theory of nationalism or national struggle: National struggles are appropriate only, they believed, to the period of young, rising capitalism, a period now ended -- completely so for Luxemburg, not quite completely for Lenin, who insisted that national movements might still succeed in backward areas like Russia and the colonies./83 But Lenin changed, or developed, his views in the process of formulating his theory of imperialism and colonialism during the First World War. Thereafter he insisted that national struggles are not out of date, and anti- colonial liberation movements are important and progressive.


Santiago believes that these earlier views of Lenin's are the only views which Lenin ever held, and therefore he can project Lenin as an opponent of national liberation movements. But Lenin's views evolved to a qualitatively different level after 1914. A substantial part of his theory of imperialism was a new theory of national struggle, a theory quite unlike Santiago's. Lenin now argued that national struggles would necessarily increase, not decline, in the 20th century, the era of imperialism, and he became strongly supportive of some national movements (notably the Irish movement, which he had not fully supported in earlier years). In 1915-1916 he argued for the first time that colonial liberation struggles were important components of the worldwide revolutionary process, and for the first time declared his conviction that many of them would succeed during the lifetime of capitalism. He was now in total disagreement with the Luxemburgians on the national question in general, insisting as he did that national struggle was not, in fact, out of date and declining, that many national movements would succeed in forming new states, and that colonial liberation movements not only were viable but were progressive. Finally, in the period from late 1917 until the end of his active life, and particularly after the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920 (when Lenin came to know revolutionaries from the colonial world), Lenin adopted his fully mature theory of liberation in the colonial world, a theory that has profoundly influenced the world's decolonization process. Three tenets of this theory are relevant to the present discussion. First, Lenin stated categorically that colonial liberation movements would succeed in the era of imperialism, that they were progressive, and that they would not be "bourgeois nationalist" to the extent that exploited and revolutionary socialists provided them with momentum, and direction. Second, Lenin demanded of all revolutionary socialists that they fight for the liberation of all colonies, and any party in any colony-owning country which did not fight strongly for the liberation of its country's colonies would be excluded from the International. And thirdly, Lenin argued that support for colonial liberation was direct support for the world revolution; it was not, as Lenin had previously argued in relation pre-1914 national movements in the Russian Empire, a matter subordinate to other questions, or -- as Santiago asserts (p. 4) -- motivated simply by a pragmatic wish to eliminate a troublesome issue which divided the proletariat and inhibited the struggle (p. 4)./84


Santiago's "theses" are grounded in Lenin's pre- 1914 views. As I will show, everyone of the supposedly Leninist postulates which are important for Santiago's argument, and which underlie his attempt to use Lenin against national liberation, either were not Lenin's views at all or were discarded by him after 1914. And Santiago's quotations from a few of Lenin's writings of the intermediate period,late 1914 through part of 1916, are taken quite out of context: These are writings which return to pre-World-War considerations and issues, notably the matter of the right of nations to self-determination, a matter which, in 1915-1916, was being debated on a Europe-wide scale for the first time.


Now to Santiago's "theses." The first asserts that [the] proletariat has to subordinate every cause, including that of constituting a new independent state, to its class interests as a proletariat...In other words, between national (poly-class) independence and proletarian (class) independence, the working class should always put in first place its own interests (p. 4).


The direct response here is very simple and direct. If Puerto Rico is a colony of the most powerful capitalist country in the world, how can anyone envision the achievement of socialism in Puerto Rico so long as it remains such a colony? By implication, if the working class wants to achieve socialism in Puerto Rico, either the class fights for independence as part (not all) of its strategy, or it waits patiently for socialism to arrive in the United States, a long wait indeed. Therefore, the class interest of the Puerto Rican proletariat, like the class interest of all exploited classes in all colonies past and present, calls for a struggle for state independence.


As support for his thesis no. 1, Santiago quotes Lenin: "In regard to the problem of the self- determination of nations...what interests us...above all is the self-determination of the proletariat"./85 Lenin in fact wrote these words at the beginning of 1914 and with regard specifically to Russia. Later he strongly attacked those who would concede the right of self-determination to the working class only. In a crucial incident after the October Revolution, Bukharin wanted to change the party program to withdraw the right of self-determination for nations within the new Soviet state, on grounds that only the proletariat in each nation, not the nation as a whole, should have a say in self-determination. Lenin replied: "To reject the self-determination of nations and insert [in our program] the self-determination of the working people would be absolutely wrong."/86 The right of self- determination, of secession from the Soviet state, remained in the party program (and later was put in the constitution of the USSR). So Santiago cannot claim the authority of Lenin, or indeed of modern Marxism, for his thesis that there is a contradiction between the class interests of the working people and the struggle for independence.


Santiago's second thesis demands the establishment of the tightest possible bonds of unity, including organizational unity, with the rest of the proletariat [of] the United States. Only with the unfolding of this process of organization and class development can the working class in both regions, particularly that located in Puerto Rico, determine whether it is advantageous to give critical and conditional support (although only with the 'stamp of the proletariat') to the various independentista projects existing or foreseeable, or to oppose such projects (p. 11).


In a word, Santiago wants both "regions," Puerto Rico and the rest of the United States, to have a single, common working-class party, and he wants to put off the struggle for independence until there exists such an organization and until both proletariats can jointly decide whether Puerto Rican independence of one sort or another is desirable for this class.


Again the response is simple and direct. Firstly: what becomes of "self-determination" -- of the nation or even of the class -- if the final decision about whether or not to struggle for independence is a decision made not by Puerto Ricans but by the fifty- times larger working class of the oppressing country? K. A. Santiago cannot be entirely ignorant of the tendency toward chauvinism and pro-colonialism which has been endemic in metropolitan working calls sectors and which has troubled every Marxist since Marx./87 One may infer, therefore, that Santiago does not expect his "decision" to be made until the US working class has  purged itself of such tendencies, something which probably will not happen for a very long time, and perhaps not until after the time when the decision can make any difference. And secondly: as far as I know, there has never been a case in which revolutionaries of a colony and those of the country owning the colony have joined into a common party and have brought independence, much less socialism, to the colony. Something resembling this strategy was evidently tried in Puerto Rico itself some time ago, with unfortunate results. In the 1940s, the old Puerto Rican Communist Party, organizationally distinct from the US Communist Party but strongly under its influence, dutifully adopted Browderism and liquidated itself, urging workers to support the Popular Party, the liberal- capitalist and non-independentista party of Luis Muqoz Marin./88


Santiago claims the authority of Lenin for his thesis that there must be total unity of action and organization between Puerto Rican and US workers, and that this must come before a decision is made about the independence of Puerto Rico. Santiago gives us quotations from Lenin but these are, again, drawn entirely out of context and given in such a way as to suggest that Lenin believed the very opposite of what he actually did believe. Most crucially, Santiago quotes Lenin as demanding "full and unconditional unity, including organizational unity, of the workers of the oppressed nation and those of the oppressor nation."/89 But in the same year in which these words were written (1916), Lenin argued that "to create an international Marxist organization, there must be a readiness to form Marxist parties in the various countries."/90 "Organizational unity" thus was a very different concept in Lenin's thinking than it is in Santiago's. Lenin also warned against "treating the national movements of small nations with disdain," in an article supporting the Irish rebellion of 1916./91 But the proper response to Santiago is to point out the whole direction of Lenin's thinking about how to fight against colonialism. The evolution of his thinking about strategy in this matter mainly occurred after the October Revolution of 1917, and mainly in the building of the International, when Lenin met numbers of colonial revolutionaries, learned about the conditions of struggle in colonies from direct and reliable sources, and formulated his mature analysis of anti- colonial liberation struggle, an analysis which, I must repeat, has guided both Marxist and non-Marxist struggles throughout the Third World. It is conceivable that Lenin still hoped, as late as 1916, that it might be possible to unite political movements in colonies and the countries which owned these colonies, after the example which the Bolsheviks themselves were trying to set in the Russian colonies, but, if so, Lenin abandoned this vision and never thereafter returned to it. In all of his writings after 1916 he never once suggested that working-class parties in colonies should be fused to those in the colonizing country, except as they fused into a single International.


In his third "thesis," Santiago warns against the danger of "nationalism." He uses the word to mean any struggle for state independence, and he considers any such struggle to be "bourgeois," to be a practice and attitude of the bourgeoisie, something which the proletariat (of Puerto Rico and everywhere else) must be wary of and should, in general, oppose. Instead of arguing in support of this "thesis," Santiago tries to have Lenin do so for him, mainly in long quotations from two of Lenin's writings. First Santiago gives us extracts from Lenin's 1914 essay, "Critical Remarks on the National Question," an essay written to attack mainly two nationalist tendencies, Bundist and Ukrainian separatists, tendencies which were endangering revolutionary unity at that time./92 This essay is justly famous as Lenin's most devastating attack on reactionary nationalism within the left. It is also the single most frequently misinterpreted of Lenin's writings on the national question. This is so for two reasons. One can take it out of context and see it as portraying a viewpoint that is unqualifiedly hostile to all national movements, not simply the reactionary ones. And it puts forward some critical views about national movements which Lenin held, in common with most Marxists, in the pre-World-War epoch, but which he abandoned later because they were inconsistent with his conception of imperialism and were inappropriate to the new era of intensified national struggle, particularly in colonies./93


Santiago plucks out of "Critical Remarks on the National Question" a series of passages which mislead the reader on both these counts. First he quotes Lenin as being utterly opposed to "nationalism," but Lenin's meaning of "nationalism" in the context of the quotations is, strictly, reactionary nationalism -- not nationalism in the broader sense, a sense used sometimes by Lenin, as meaning national struggles in general and including progressive national movements. (Indeed any other interpretation, including Santiago's, would make incomprehensible Lenin's support, from 1916 on, for all colonial movements and some other progressive national movements.) For example, Santiago quotes this famous comment: "Marxism cannot be reconciled with nationalism." Of course it cannot be reconciled with reactionary nationalism, but often it supports and participates in, and even leads, national liberation movements which are also called "nationalist." Secondly, Santiago quotes passages which present views that Lenin later repudiated. For instance, Lenin is quoted as saying that Marxism supports "the amalgamation of all nations in the higher unity, a unity which is growing before our eyes with every mile of railway line that is built, with every international trust."/94 This was the view that capitalism in 1914 was becoming fully international and that national struggles, indeed national differences in general, were dissolving quickly -- under capitalism. This view was not only wrong for the world after 1914 but was repudiated by Lenin in everything he wrote about the national question thereafter. National struggles were intensifying in the new era. Nations would not dissolve, perhaps ever./95


Santiago now wants to convince us that nations today are becoming fused together, Puerto Rico and the United States among them, that Puerto Rican nationalism (the independence struggle) is bourgeois and reactionary, and so on. One simply cannot use Lenin in support of these positions. Santiago tries to do so, and indeed he makes no arguments of his own.


Santiago's charge that the Puerto Rican independence struggle is "bourgeois-nationalist" is also made by quoting Lenin. Here we are given a quotation of truly epic proportions, amounting to about one-seventh of the entire length of Santiago's rather long essay. The quotation is from a 1903 article in which Lenin attacked the bourgeois nationalism of the Polish Socialist Party./96 (In case we do not know who the "bourgeois nationalists" are in Puerto Rico, Santiago remarks on the "irony" -- his word -- that the initials "PSP" stand for both the Polish Socialist Party and the Partido Socialista Puertorriqueqo, the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. [p. 6.]) Here the argument is purely one of analogy between Poland c. 1903 and Puerto Rico today. The connection between subject and analogue is merely the fact that Puerto Rico today has a proletariat, as did Poland in 1903: hardly a valid basis for comparing an oppressed, superexploited, and poor colony, Puerto Rico, with the most industrialized and wealthiest part of the old Russian Empire. Given the triviality of this analogy across space, time, and social fact, it is not necessary for me to repeat or comment on the argument about Poland which is laid out in Lenin's 1903 article. This article indeed showed the bourgeois basis of the nationalism displayed by the Polish Socialist Party at that time. It conveys Lenin's view of this period that all national movements are bourgeois, part of the early-Marxist theory that nation-states are created only at the time of, and as part of, the "rise of the bourgeoisie." Lenin later (as we noted previously) argued a very different thesis, as regards colonies in particular: Their nationalism incorporates the politics of oppressed classes as well as some (not all) of the bourgeoisie, and under appropriate circumstances it can be a struggle to create a socialist state, not a bourgeois state.


The fourth and final thesis is simply the assertion that Marxists must not be independentistas. The argument is made again with a string of quotations and paraphrasings from Lenin. The sequence of argument proceeds roughly as follows: (1) Although Lenin favored the right of self-determination he did not do so for all circumstances. (In fact, Lenin fought consistently, from 1903 to the end of his life, to retain the principle of self-determination in his party's program, and it is very unlikely that he ever, in any concrete case, opposed self-determination./97 (2) Although Puerto Rico should have the right of self-determination, the proletariat, not the nation as a whole, should make the decision regarding self-determination, and should not do so until well into the future. (3) The decision should be made, not by the Puerto Rican proletariat alone, but by the combined proletariat of Puerto Rico and the United States (a vote in which Puerto Ricans of course would be a tiny minority). (4) Puerto Rican Marxists, for their part, would opt, not for independence, but for fusion with the United States, on the basis of the following strange argument:


Lenin, here following Marx, postulates two ways in which the dissolution of "national oppression" (and/or colonial oppression) can be brought about. One way...is secession. The other is the voluntary, free, and democratic decision on the part of the "oppressed nation" (and/or colonial nation) favoring political union with the former "oppressor nation" (and/or advanced region)...As a matter of fact, Lenin displayed a marked preference for the latter of the two routes (p. 9).


As a matter of fact, this argument is inconsistent with Marxist views on colonial liberation. And as a matter of fact, Lenin did not display a "marked preference" for political union between colonies and the capitalist countries oppressing them. It is safe to say that he never considered a "free" choice to be possible under colonial oppression, and he supported the independence of all colonies without exception.


Finally, says Santiago (5), the proper plan for Puerto Rico's immediate future is to struggle for "reforms" against "colonial backwardness" (p. 11), working toward the day when the Puerto Rican working class, jointly with the US working class, can "freely" decide for or against independence for Puerto Rico. This is the stuff of dreams.


Just Another State?


We turn next to the anti-independence position of the Colectivo Socialista de San Juan(CSSJ) as expressed in its position paper, "Marxism or independentismo socialista"? The paper begins with a caricatured description of the entire Puerto Rican left (save only this collective), according to which all organizations are declared to be branded with "bourgeois nationalism," "social-patriotism," and the like. Next comes the declaration, made without supporting argument or evidence, that Puerto Rico and the United States form a single nation-state:


To begin with, we take note of a fact which tends to be forgotten by the bulk of "Puerto Rican socialism": There exists a basic structural continuity between the state apparatuses in Puerto Rico and the state apparatuses in the United States. In other words, what we are dealing with, in essence, is the same State. We are dealing with a nation-State which oppresses the workers of various nationalities, including the establishment of certain privileges between one nationality and the rest (page 40).*


Therefore, says the Colectivo, the true imperative is "the democratic-revolutionary unity of all the masses oppressed by the same State," beginning with "the most advanced of the proletariat and their allies" (p. 40).


What follows next is a synthesis of K. A. Santiago's argument, which we have discussed already (and shown to be spurious), to the effect that Lenin would demand organizational unity of the workers in the oppressed and oppressor nations; that Lenin would characterize Puerto Rican independentismo as small- nation nationalism and thus not very different from great-nation nationalism; and that Lenin would argue in various other ways that independentismo is anti- Marxist. The CSSJ even declares, in what is almost a parody of Lenin, that


To struggle for national independence, to struggle for the construction of another nation-State, is to struggle also, objectively, for the privileges of one nationality over another (p. 41).


That is to say: an independent Puerto Rico would oppress the United States.


The final part of the CSSJ argument is an effort to explain the political program of this anti- independence collective. The group really has very few choices as to where to locate itself on the terrain of Puerto Rican politics. There are three basic status positions: One is support for independence. Another is support for "statehood," that is, an effort to become one of the states of the US. And the third is support for something like the present colonial status, perhaps incorporating a struggle for a larger degree of autonomy within the framework of that status. The CSSJ would seem almost to be forced into a pro-statehood position, given its doctrine that a single nation-state embraces Puerto Rico and the US, its belief in organizational unity between Puerto Rican and US political formations, and the rest. But in present-day Puerto Rico. the pro-statehood political forces are the most reactionary of all. There is just one other alternative: anarchism.


In fact, the San Juan Socialist Collective, in spite of its declared fealty to Lenin, puts forward a position which is a form of anarcho-syndicalism, though the the group would not call it that or accept the attribution. They simply declare themselves to be opposed to the Puerto Rican state, the US state, and all states of the world:


We believe...not in national independence but in class independence.


We do not wish to promote the construction of still another state.


The worker-people alliance should exercise power directly, not by means of a state (p. 42).


And predictably, they declare that "none of the existing forms of State and society," "including all of the so-called socialist forms" (p. 43), deserve their support.


In my view only two specific counter-arguments are needed as a comment on the peculiar doctrine -- we may call it, somewhat facetiously, "anarcho-Leninism" -- of the Collective. One has been made already in our critique of Santiago. It is merely the demonstration that the anti-independence position here espoused is completely disjunct from the viewpoint toward anti- colonial struggles which essentially all Marxists have held since the time of Lenin, and which prevails among Third World thinkers, Marxist and non-Marxist alike.


The second counter-argument focuses on what is perhaps the only really concrete thesis which is advanced by the Colectivo (and by Santiago). This is the claim that Puerto Rico and the United States form a single nation-state. There are at least two effective ways to answer this claim. One is to demonstrate the reality of the Puerto Rican nation and the empirical facts of history, society, and political action which confirm this reality. This has been done in the present volume and elsewhere. The second and more direct way to answer the claim that Puerto Rico is merely part of the United States is to point to the direct effects of colonialism and the colonial status on present-day Puerto Rico: to show that Puerto Rico is objectively both a distinctively colonial entity, governed from afar by another state, and a society overwhelmingly influenced by its colonial status. This demonstration has also been made in the progressive Puerto Rican literature. It was made very effectively in a recent essay criticizing the CSSJ position paper ("Crmtica a la ponencia del Colectivo Socialista de San Juan: 'Marxismo o independentismo socialista'") prepared by the editors of Pensamiento Crmtico joined by Marxists from various other independentista sectors./98 It will suffice here to summarize the arguments of the Pensamiento Crmtico authors on the matters which we are discussing, adding one or two arguments of our own as appropriate.


To begin with, the authors of this critique refute the Colectivo's claim that there is a "structural continuity between the state apparatuses in Puerto Rico and...the United States." They argue that quite the opposite is the case, that there is a fundamental discontinuity of state structure, with Puerto Rico's state structure subject to a dominant external structure, reflecting mainly an underlying economic fact: the fact that colonial Puerto Rico generates immense surplus value for North American capital, and does so precisely because of the colonial status of Puerto Rico. The Pensamiento Crmtico authors add, as another structural discontinuity, the ethnic difference between Puerto Ricans and the dominant ethnic group in the United States, a difference used, in the same essential way, to generate surplus value for North American capital. I would also add two additional points which are implicit in the Pensamiento Crmtico argument. First, Puerto Rico's political structure is classically that of a colony. As we noted before, it includes an executive and legislature which can be and frequently are overruled by the metropolitan state apparatus, or simply bypassed with Federal "administrative guidelines" which stipulate the applicability or inapplicability to Puerto Rico of particular Federal statutes, and unilaterally impose United States police power on Puerto Rico (via the FBI, the CIA, etc.), while Puerto Ricans have no formal participation (by vote, etc.) in the formulation, application, and legal interpretation of the externally imposed dictates. Secondly, the underlying economic rationale for Puerto Rico's colonial status is not only the direct matter of generating surplus value in the colony but also the indirect use of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans, by the United States -- principally through the "Defense establishment" -- to maintain a political environment in other parts of the world which will permit unimpeded profit-making by US-based corporations. In other words, Puerto Rico's colonial status assists the US to maintain neo-colonies elsewhere.


The Pensamiento Critico counter-argument continues by detailing some of the economic and class characteristics and effects of colonialism in Puerto Rico. From the standpoint of United States capitalism, the colonial state structure itself plays a crucial role in the generation of super-profits. (Profit rates in Puerto Rico have tended in recent decades to be about 20%, roughly double the US domestic rates, and equivalent to the rates obtained by US capital in external Third World countries, but with none of the special risks associated with investment in these "foreign" countries. This is part of the explanation for the fact, discussed at an earlier point in this chapter, that 42% of all US profits from Latin America come from Puerto Rico, and the fact that only six foreign countries have more trade with the US than Puerto Rico has.) The authors note that special tax exemptions, lower wages, and other profit-making advantages results specifically from the colonial nature of the Puerto Rican state. They detail the economic misery which Puerto Rico suffers as a US colony. They note that these conditions prevail during all stages of the business cycle in the US. Two conditions are salient: First, the unemployment rate is at all times very much higher than it is in the US. (Today it is about three times the US rate.) Second, the per capita income in Puerto Rico is about half that of Mississippi, the poorest US state, and 40% of the average for the US as a whole. (I would add that the cost of living is about 15% higher in Puerto Rico than in the US, reflecting the absolute dependence on commodities imported from the US and the almost absolute control on distribution of these commodities which is exercised by giant US corporations, the whole of which further depresses the relative level of living in Puerto Rico as against the US.)


And most broadly: Puerto Rico experiences, over the long term, economic underdevelopment while the US experiences economic development. The Pensamiento Crmtico authors point out, in this regard, that underdevelopment was taking place even during the period of much-touted industrial expansion, under "Operation Bootstrap," from 1950 to 1970, a period when great waves of Puerto Rican workers had to migrate to the United States in order to survive. And underdevelopment continues in the present period of worsening economic contraction in the United States.


Finally, the authors of this critique call attention to the specifically colonial nature of Puerto Rico's class structure. They note the crucially important fact that the fundamental class force governing Puerto Rico is not the (relatively small) independent Puerto Rican bourgeoisie but the North American bourgeoisie. Nor is the Puerto Rican bourgeoisie a "junior partner" of the North American class, as might be the case if the political relation were not colonial. Implicit in the Pensamiento Crmtico argument here is the proposition that the Puerto Rican bourgeoisie cannot be considered a "rising class" under conditions of colonialism. In this respect, as in most others, the national question in Puerto Rico is the question of colonialism.




79 Colectivo Socialista de San Juan, "Marxismo o independentismo socialista?" In Pensamiento Crmtico, aqo 5, no. 35, October-December 1983, pp. 38-44.


80 K. A. Santiago, "La cuestisn nacional: algunas tesis ignoradas," Proceso (Puerto Rico), no. 4, December 1981, pp. 2-13.


81 Blaut The National Question: Decolonizing the Theory of Nationalism, chaps. 1 and 4.


82 Idem.


83 Ibid., chap. 4.


84 V. I. Lenin, "The Right of Nations to Self- Determination," Lenin's Collected Works [hereafter Works], vol. 20, p. 428. Quoted on p. 5 of Santiago's essay.


85 Lenin, "Report on the Party Program," 8th Congress RCP(B), Works, vol. 29, p. 174.


87 See for instance F. Engels 1882 letter to Kautsky, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Correspondence (Moscow: Progress, 1975), pp. 330-331.


88 See J. Mari Bras, "Albizu Campos..." op. cit., pp. 200-201.


89 Lenin, "The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination," Works, vol. 22, p. 148. Quoted on p. 5 of Santiago's essay.


90 Lenin, "Socialism and War," Works, vol. 21, p. 330.


91 Lenin, "The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up," Works, vol. 22, p. 355.


92 Lenin, "Critical Remarks on the National Question," Works, vol. 20, pp. 17-51.


93 Blaut, The National Question, chap. 4.


94 Lenin, "Critical Remarks on the National Question," Works, vol. 20, p. 34.


95 For instance: "[National] and state distinctions...will continue to exist fir a very long time to come, even after the dictatorship of the proletariat has been established on a world- wide scale." Lenin's Works, vol. 31, p. 92. Also see Blaut, The National Question, chaps. 4-6.


96 Lenin, "The National Question in Our Program," Works, vol. 6, pp. 454-463.


97 On this matter, see Blaut, The National Question, chap. 4.


98 Pensamiento Crmtico editors, Taller de Formacisn Polmtica, Talleres Socialistas, joint authors, "Crmtica a la ponencia del Colectivo Socialista de San Juan: 'Marxismo o independentismo socialista?,'" Pensamiento Crmtico, aqo 7, no. 36, January-February 1984, pp. 16-27.