Theory of Social Fascism and the MRPP

By Sam Marcy

February 23, 1975

In his celebrated book, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx said that great personalities occasionally appear in history twice, once as tragedy and again as farce. He might have added that the same can also be said of some organizations.

We have in mind the Movement for the Reorganization of the Proletariat (MRPP) and similar but smaller Maoist groupings in Portugal. This is not to deny that they are serious organizations with dedicated cadre and with revolutionary convictions

At the moment, the MRPP is clearly in the ascendant as a result of its leadership in the Oporto and Lisbon demonstrations in recent weeks. Its gains, which are minimal, are mostly at the expense of the CP, whose crass opportunism and class collaborationist policy with the bourgeoisie evoke an easy revulsion in the hearts of all the militants, especially the young.


Nevertheless, the MRPP's relentless advocacy and wild pursuit of the slogan "social-fascists out of the trade unions" (by which they mean the CP) and "revisionism in power means social-fascism in power" clearly marks them out as a farcical or tragicomic version of the German CP of the late 1920s. The latter's fatal policy led to the decimation of the German CP and ushered in the Hitlerite period of horror destruction and catastrophe, unprecedented in history.

The origin of the MRPP's self-defeating policy lies with Stalin's false and spurious approach to the German Social-Democracy, which resulted in catastrophe and defeat.

It was the Stalin-Manuilsky-Thaelmann view that since the Social-Democracy in Germany was only socialist in words while in reality fascist in character, it would therefore be erroneous to offer a united front with them in the struggle against Hitler. This ignored that the Social-Democracy at that time had a tremendous working class following, even larger than that of the CP.

Neglecting a united front tactic with the Social-Democracy left the workers divided and bereft of leadership and objectively eased the road of Hitler to power.

It was this calamitous course which impelled Stalin thereafter to make a 180-degree turn toward full, unprincipled, class-collaborationist united front tactics with the Social-Democracy, the fruits of which are all too visible today in the policies of the French, Italian, and Portuguese CPs.


Basically, Stalin's German policy meant a rejection of Lenin's and Trotsky's victorious united front tactic, in which the Bolsheviks correctly blocked, in a principled manner, with the Mensheviks and Kerensky against Kornilov the leader of the counterrevolution and Russia's equivalent of Hitler and Spinola and thereafter vanquished the Mensheviks and Kerensky in the successful October Revolution.

it is easy to dismiss the MRPP slogans as mere polemical exaggerations or abusive rhetorical invective, born in the heat of struggle, which should not be taken too seriously. Would that that were so.

However, these slogans are the keystone to their fundamental policy and their commitment to them is as dogmatic and blind to the realities of the day as was that of the German CP, but with much, much less justification. For fascism was then a new phenomenon and defiance of Stalin and the Comintern meant virtual isolation from the revolutionary working class movement.

"Theory," Lenin used to frequently remark, quoting from Goethe, "is gray, but the tree of life is green."

The theoretician and architect of the first successful proletarian revolution did not, of course, mean to denigrate the significance of theory in relation to revolutionary practice. On the contrary, his remark was meant to emphasize the need to critically examine the application of Marxist theory to every new, concrete situation.

To dogmatically or mechanically apply a given theoretical proposition without regard to the concrete reality of the situation, Lenin warned, was a sure road to disaster for a revolutionary workers' party. Over and over again, Lenin proved himself to be the giant revolutionary theoretician and practitioner of Marxism by subjecting to the most searching and critical analysis each and every unfolding event during the long course of three Russian revolutions, the Civil War, the imperialist interventions, and the formative years of the establishment of the Soviet Union.

Of course, there cannot always be such a rich and varied succession of world-shaking events as was experienced in Russia. At other times there may be many weeks, months, and years, when divergent theoretical propositions may be debated endlessly without there being any significant events to confirm the validity of a given theory.

The ultimate test for all theory lies in the crucible of experience -- experience which the masses themselves go through.


What has been the experience of the Portuguese working class since the overthrow of the Salazar-Caetano fascist dictatorship on April 25? Has this experience verified or invalidated the theory of social-fascism as a scientific, Marxist-Leninist appraisal of the Portuguese CP?

The events of September 28 throw a powerful searchlight on the social character of the CP as a working class organization, and at the same time tear to shreds and hopelessly discredit the analysis of the MRPP.

What happened on September 28? On that day, General Spinola attempted a counter-revolutionary coup d'etat. He hoped to mask the coup with popular support by a call to the so-called "silent majority" to converge on Lisbon where he would present to the Portuguese a counter-revolutionary fait accompli. His call for popular support, in reality was a call for a fascist, Mussolini-type march on Lisbon.

But Spinola was stopped in his tracks. He was stopped by a timely giant anti-fascist mobilization. Spinola's fascist supporters were turned back. The, coup proved abortive and collapsed.

Who took the initiative in organizing and mobilizing the workers and students to stop the Mussolini-like march? It was the Portuguese CP. Can this be denied? Can this important initiative by the CP be characterized as the work of social fascists, i.e., socialists in words but fascists in deeds? It would not only be patently false, but absurd in the extreme.

By this mass action alone, the CP raised its prestige tremendously, not only among the workers but among the Portuguese masses as a whole. The CP leadership is still resting on its laurels from the popular support it won as a result of this significant initiative. It was this timely move which not only dealt a blow against a fascist comeback but also weakened the possessing classes in Portugal. It accounts for why the world bourgeoisie was so alarmed in the weeks that followed the Spinolist attempted coup, and still is -- even more so today.


True, everything the CP did in connection with the mass antifascist mobilization was done in the spirit of class collaboration. All its propaganda centered around and was confined to the narrow limits of the struggle against the resurgent reaction. It limited the struggle then, and has continually done so since then, to merely defending the status quo, defending the democratic rights the masses have gained until now, but severely restricting them to the framework of bourgeois democracy. But then, this has been their line for decades, since the middle '30s and during Stalin's lifetime.

It is avowedly a party without a revolutionary perspective for the overthrow of the bourgeois state. At its recent convention it even eliminated the phrase dictatorship of the proletariat from its program (which is a program in itself). What does this prove? It proves that the CP has degenerated into a reformist party and renounced the revolutionary class struggle. But it has not been converted into a fascist organization and has no kinship to one whatever.

The September 28 events were of enormous significance. They demonstrated that the CP, because it is rooted in the working class movement, has a stake in the struggle against counter-revolution and fascist dictatorship and is even capable of taking a bold initiative in this struggle as a measure of self-defense.

This does not necessarily mean that it can maintain the initiative, but that, as against the danger of a rightist attack, it has a strong material interest in mobilizing the working class against the thrust of the fascist reaction of the bourgeoisie.

The MRPP must have felt this in their bones on September 28, when thousands of CP rank and filers and sympathizers were mounting the barricades and the MRPP, as well as other organizations to the left of the CP, had to join them in a disorderly manner, while the PCP carried the anti-fascist mobilization through in a planned and organized fashion.


True, Alvaro Cunhal, the CP leader, might formally have called the MRPP and other militant organizations to a united front on this crucial event, but that would have been expecting the CP leadership to have acted in a principled, revolutionary, working class manner. The fact that they did not do this hardly transforms them into "social fascists."

The MRPP could scarcely have expected such a call. Its policy towards the CP is so violent, so hostile, and so unreasoning, that it virtually excludes almost any type of working class collaboration, even with kindred organizations, let alone the CP-and even in the face of the greatest danger. Instead of offering a united front to the CP, even if only for the purpose of exposing the CP, it let them off the hook and enabled the CP to justify its policy to its own rank and file.

The MRPP's strategy is the crassest example of that blind, petty-bourgeois fanaticism which cannot even recognize the need to take the most elementary measures for its own self-defense, measures which in moments of great crisis are necessary and without which it will surely end up in the destruction of its organization.

The erroneous position of the MRPP, however, does not absolve the PCP of its own blatant revisionism, which is also the legacy of Stalin. The broad resurgence of the working-class movement, which the Portuguese proletariat is now experiencing, makes it imperative and in the most vital interest of the success of the Portuguese revolution to cleanse the Augean stables of Stalin's terrible legacy.

The Portuguese proletariat has the opportunity and the challenge to see to it that the dead hand of the past should not impede the road to its revolutionary future.

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