Portuguese revolution in danger

By Sam Marcy

July 16

The U.S. and its Western allies are preparing a back-door counterrevolution in Portugal. They are using Socialist Party (SP) and Popular Democrat (PD) politicians as their public relations front to carry out this sordid mission. This attempt to reverse the gains of the revolution, unlike the two previous attempts -- last September and again in March -- has the potential of fomenting the bloodiest civil war in Europe since the Spanish Revolution.

There are, of course, theoretically speaking, other possibilities. The Portuguese Communist Party (CP) and its allies could gracefully withdraw from the government and from influential positions in the army and let the SP and PD run the show in reestablishing the battered and broken-down ruling class of Portugal.

But even if the CP leadership were contemplating this alternative, which we strongly doubt, it would not result in a peaceful democratic solution. It would only end up in a monstrous blood bath for the working class. The reasons for this should be obvious to anyone who has even superficially studied the development in Portugal over the past 14 months.


In the first place all the counter-revolutionary forces -- the Salazarists, the Caetanoists, the Spinolaists in and out of the army, all the old, rotten, and corrupt elements of the fascist regime, the police, the civil guards, the prison authorities, the court personnel and judges, some elements of the rank-and-file army, not to speak of reactionaries in the officer corps, all the flunkies of the dispossessed landlords, absentee managers, servants and lickspittles of the monopolies, who have long been in hiding and subdued -- all these would spring into the open and create a St. Bartholomew's Night of terror for all the working class militants, landless peasants, and progressives.

None of the above counter-revolutionary elements have been destroyed or deeply wounded by the revolution. The revolution has been kind to them. Have not all genuine revolutions of the oppressed in the past always started off by treating their mortal class enemies with kindness -- until the night of terror does descend upon them? Only then, and then only, does the vengeance of the revolutionary masses come into existence. It is then that the revolutionary masses are reviled for the use of terror, but the terror of their oppressors is not mentioned.

To this day, the PIDE (the secret police who used to torture all dissidents during the fascist regime) have been treated "leniently, even kindly" (Portuguese CP head Alvaro Cunhal's own words). They could be out of jail on an hour's notice as vengeful, as cruel, and as sadistic as they ever were, if not more so.

Then think also of all those -- there are thousands -- who have been forced into exile. The landlords plant managers business executives, government officials of the former regime, and their families. Even now, "refugees" from Mozambique and Angola are streaming into the Lisbon airport. The rightists are delighted to welcome them.

Yes, it is theoretically possible for the CP to gracefully withdraw, but the practical aspect is no easy task. It ought to make anyone shudder at the enormous dangers it would entail. The bourgeoisie would soon show what it really means by a "democratic process." This would happen even if the CP withdrew in the best and most principled break with the government.


There is no question that the Italian CP leader Enrico Berlinguer and his colleagues have been urging precisely such a withdrawal Have not the Italian CP leaders been warning Cunhal all along to take his place as a minority in a peaceful, constitutional, "democratic" way and make a Portuguese-style "historic compromise" like the one Berlinguer is so desperately trying to accomplish in Italy?

No wonder Cunhal is now so disdainful and scornful of his Italian and Spanish colleagues. The truth is, as an article by John Paton Davies in the New York Times Magazine of July 13 says, the Italian CP leaders have all along been more favorable to the Portuguese Socialist Party and its approach. That explains a lot about the anger of Cunhal at the advice (or really pressure) he's been getting from Italian and other Western CP leaders.

The current crisis in Portugal arose when the SP ministers and their deputies withdrew from the Cabinet. By the time this is in print, the Popular Democrats will have done so too.

Almost simultaneously, the Confederation of Portuguese Industries -- the industrialists' organization -- which had been laying low all these many months and at times seemed as servile as flunkies to the government, has made a turnabout. Emboldened by the democratic electoral victory these capitalists have steadily become tougher. At their last meeting they went so far as to hand the government an ultimatum so provocatively worded that even President Costa Gomes, a moderate (a euphemism for a bourgeois), had to decline meeting with them. The smaller shopkeepers too have become even more rambunctious.

And finally, the Assembly of Lawyers, representing the ancient and honorable profession of Portuguese barristers (where have they been all these 50 years in the struggle for civil rights and democratic liberties?) has at last passed a resolution for civil rights and democracy directed against the government and the CP.

To round out the events as they are unfolding in this tense political crisis, the headquarters of the CP in Rio Maior (a small town 25 miles north of Lisbon), has been burned down to the ground by a counter-revolutionary mob to the malicious joy of all the rightists. And none of those who are now suddenly fighting for "democracy" took note of this infraction of democracy.

And what has been the issue which galvanized the SP and the Popular Democratic politicians and caused them to throw down the gauntlet to the armed forces (really meaning it for the CP)?

Freedom of the press! The fact that the workers, led to a very limited extent by the CP, took over the establishment of Republica (which incidentally is privately owned), locked the door, and wouldn't let the publishers in. But this takeover coincided with hundreds of others by Portuguese workers in other areas of the working class struggle, which explains why so much workers' control of industry prevails as of now in Portugal (see WW article, June 27).


Never has an issue such as the closing of the Republica newspaper had such a magical effect on rallying the worldwide bourgeoisie. Offers of financial support "have come from all over the world and things have gone so far that there was a suggestion that Western European and American newspapers might make a direct contribution for a newspaper to be edited by Raul Rego" (the former owner of Republica), says the Washington Post of July 15.

Has there ever been a genuinely socialist publication that could get the support of the Pentagon, the CIA, the White House, Wall Street, and the Bound? Yet even a retired U.S. Chief of Naval Operations is publicly soliciting funds for Republica. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt signed his name to an ad in the New York Times for such purposes (July 13), and Zumwalt was none other than Nixon's Chief of Naval Operations.

Indeed, the U.S. ruling class is working overtime on all cylinders getting everybody to do their bit to reverse the situation in Portugal. Even bankers have been enlisted to act as errand boys for the CIA so that "freedom could prevail." Tad Szulc, the former New York Times Washington Bureau Chief, says in an article in the August Penthouse magazine that "early this year several American bankers were asked by personal friends in the CIA to handle a delivery of special funds in Spain and Portugal." Some, of course, refused. It would violate the tradition that the CIA does the errand boy work for the bankers, and not vice versa. But on this special occasion, some of the bankers agreed to cooperate in the spirit of "national interest."


Why special funds in Spain and Portugal? It was not for nothing that Ford on May 30 condescended to embrace Franco in public. For it is there in Spain that the so-called Portuguese Liberation Army, a band of cutthroats, mercenaries, and scum of the earth, are being trained for a counter-revolutionary invasion. It should not be forgotten that the Mutual Assistance Treaty signed between Franco and Salazar in 1939 had in mind precisely such a situation as exists in Portugal today.

The London Economist of June 28 refers to the PLA as one of the reasons why the "vanishing right has reasons for feeling not entirely powerless."

The other two reasons the magazine gives are the troops expected to return from Mozambique and the former high commissioner there, Admiral Vitor Crespo. It has been widely speculated that the latter is a possible alternative to Premier Goncalves.

The ruling class has put its liberal elements in the vanguard role in garnering support for Republica. Behind them, of course, are the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, such luminaries of the right as William Buckley, a long list of right-wing liberals, and an array of organizations like the anti-communist Social Democrats USA, and others ad nauseam.

Where were they all these many years when the fascist dictatorship was in power? Did they ever raise their voice for any victim of fascist terror in Portugal, or condemn the suppression of democratic newspapers then?

Where were they when Spinola was planning and openly calling for his "silent majority" to come out in a Mussolini-type march and end the Portuguese revolution?

None of them seem to have noticed that at all. Where were they all when the Spinolaists were planning to launch their second coup last March? Were they alerting the public in Portugal to mount the barricades? Were they getting ready to send bundles for the freedom fighters on the barricades who halted the Spinolaist fascist assault?

Did they even deign to write a commendatory editorial on the successful defense and the crushing of the fascist coup-which they said they were against (but only because it failed)?

No, No! Then it was the workers, the revolutionary militants, the PCP, the Portuguese Democratic Movement, and others on the left who were fighting the battle for civil liberties and democratic rights against the fascist assault. It was they who saved whatever democratic rights exist in Portugal today. Arrayed today against these very same revolutionary militants, class-conscious workers, and Progressives is the bourgeois counter-revolution wearing the mask of "freedom of the press" and "democracy."

Soares and his colleagues are merely preparing the groundwork for the counter-revolution. They are transitional, intermediate, and temporary figures to hold the fort until ... ! Soares' bourgeois allies among the Popular Democrats are more conscious of their mission than he is. As are the representatives of U.S. imperialism like C.L. Sulzberger, part of the oligarchy that owns and edits the New York Times. Now in Lisbon, he quotes Soares as telling him, "I think we must use foreign help." (New York Times, July 16.)


Cunhal is every bit correct in rejecting the bourgeois democratic system which he calls "freedom and monopolists" -- that is a splendid formulation and accurate as well (as quoted in a July 13 New York Times Magazine interview conducted by Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci). The monopolies can always reject "freedom" whenever it becomes inconvenient for them. But the social democrats and liberals, who presumably personify "freedom," have never quite disengaged themselves from the monopolies and have always managed to coexist with and serve them faithfully.

Cunhal is also absolutely correct when he denounces the Popular Front, such as the one Togliatti made with Nenni in 1948 which resulted in the Italian CP disbanding the anti-fascist Partisan organizations and entering a coalition cabinet with the bourgeoisie. Here is a' case where the monopolies could not quite comfortably coexist with freedom as envisioned by Togliatti and he and his colleagues were unceremoniously thrown out of the Cabinet as soon as it became convenient for the U.S. State Department.

Berlinguer's striving for his much beloved "historical compromise" with the Italian bourgeoisie is merely a cruder version of the 1948 coalition.

It should not be assumed that Cunhal is rejecting all compromise with the bourgeoisie and is all out for the dictatorship of the proletariat, as a superficial reading of his interview with Oriana Fallaci would indicate. But he does appear to be utterly uncompromising in the struggle against any bourgeois parliament which would be a screen for a later fascist takeover.


The most worrisome aspect of Cunhal's militant, defiant, and confident attitude towards the bourgeoisie is that it comes rather late in the day -- hopefully not too late. Cunhal has banked everything on his relationship to the army and particularly to the Armed Forces Movement (AFM). He considers it a singular achievement and believes now that his party is "unexpendable" by the army.

His faith in his alliance with the AFM is wholly unwarranted and objectively a breach of the most elementary Marxist-Leninist principles on the class character of the state. (Incidentally, Lenin's classic State and Revolution is one of the best sellers in Lisbon today.)

Granted that some limited rapprochement with the army in the struggle against the Caetano-Salazar regime was inevitable, given the circumstances that the military had for a considerable period been preparing for the overthrow of the fascist regime.

But taking the responsibility for undeviating collaboration with the army on a practically unlimited scale is quite another matter. It's another form of class collaboration, in principle not qualitatively different from the character of the collaboration which the Italian CP is now carrying out, only theirs is with the civilian bourgeoisie.

The heavy price paid by the Portuguese CP for the collaboration is the loss of confidence of large sections of the workers who have become alienated as a result of the PCP's relentless drive to increase production -- capitalist production -- against excessive wage demands, all in the name of trying to arrest a consistently deteriorating capitalist economy. Cunhal admits that the economic situation is disastrous. Why is it so? Because the capitalist class is sabotaging production.

Asking the workers to withhold wage increases and the like will not stop capitalist sabotage nor will it in any way militate against inflation No capitalist government has yet been able to stifle inflation except by creating unemployment, and even then the inflation still continues.

Workers' control of the entire economy and the destruction of the capitalists' political power is the answer.

To some degree Cunhal himself gives the answer. As summarized by his interviewer, accurately, we believe, it is "either the dictatorship of the proletariat or fascism, the third force doesn't count, liberal socialism is rubbish."

Yet the CP has not acted upon this from the earliest stages of the revolution and instead tried to police the workers, making it easier for the SP and other elements to utilize and exploit the PCP's false policy. Of course it was pure demagogy on the part of the Socialists and others.

If bourgeois democracy cannot prevail in Portugal, according to Cunhal, what then? Is not a fascist dictatorship inevitable? "We Communists," says Cunhal, "are equipped to prevent it, thanks to our alliance with the military."

Would that that were so. We would like to believe that we are wrong in doubting this and will cheerfully admit it if Cunhal is to be proven true.

However, the first part of his sentence, in our view, is canceled out by the second part.

As matters stand, the facts speak against it. "A fact is a blunt thing," said Lenin.


Costa Gomes, the President of the Portuguese government, is, in Cunhal's own words, a moderate (a bourgeois). He was the chief of staff of the fascist government, not a very good recommendation.

Admiral Crespo, the former high commissioner of Mozambique, another moderate, is openly suggested as a replacement for Premier Goncalves, said to be a longtime friend and collaborator of the CP even before the overthrow of the fascist dictatorship.

Foreign Minister Antunes, another moderate, only the other day posed the possibility of calling in the UN in the developing struggle in Angola. He is said to have raised the alternative of sending in more troops to "safeguard" Portuguese lives and property.

If the PCP does not completely and without qualification denounce and disassociate itself from such renewed intervention, it will suffer the most severe setback in the mass movement, evoking utter revulsion from its most militant and class conscious supporters. And if the junta goes through with the projected intervention, then it invites the same fate as the Kerensky government after it resumed the imperialist war with the June 1917 offensive.

It is well known that the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) which considers itself Marxist, is supported by Soviet arms. It is now reported to be in control of Luanda, the Angolan capital. The National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNMA) is reported to be moving an army against Luanda from Zaire. Assuming the very best motive on the part of the Portuguese junta -- that is to help the MPLA defend Luanda against a neo-colonialist maneuver -- this still would be a rank error. Any intervention by the troops of a country still legally the colonial power would only discredit the MPLA and confuse the situation. As Engels said, freedom for the colonies cannot be brought in from outside on a sword; that would only boomerang and weaken the real forces of liberation.

General Carvalho, the head of the security forces, is described in the bourgeois press as erratic in his relations with the military groupings and prone to move from left to right, a thin reed to rely upon in a showdown crisis.

As late as July 5th to 7th, General Carvalho, along with Captain Vasco Laurenco and Major Jose de Canto e Castro met with the so-called moderate bourgeois faction headed by Foreign Minister Melo Antunes, Major Vitor Alves and, very significantly, Admiral Vitor Crespo. It was a secret caucus meeting. Premier Goncalves was not there nor were some of the others close to him (New York Times, July 8). Fortunately Goncalves and his supporters along with the CP either reversed or somehow broke up what seemed to be a developing crisis and a split -- what the SP and the Popular Democrats had been counting on, and what the CIA and its allied foreign, intelligence in Europe have been feverishly working at.

According to one report, there are no less than a thousand foreign newspaper people of the various wire services, magazines, newspapers, electronic media, etc. in Portugal today. A veritable army of intelligence, most of them not from the U.S. but working on behalf of U.S. intelligence. This is the kind of intelligence the liberal establishment thinks the CIA is properly engaged in. They only object to covert operations -- after the fact, naturally.


There is absolutely no question that the danger of counterrevolution is real. That and that alone explains why the military finally validated plans to build what are called workers committees and commissions based upon popular support. The bourgeois press was quick to call it a move to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat -- when what is really involved is an elementary measure of self-defense.

The PCP, however, necessarily feels the danger to itself, its organization, its mass following, and to the working class, far more keenly than any member of the High Council of the Armed Forces. It took the opportunity to get the High Council to validate its own version of the so-called commissions based on popular support.

These commissions can properly be described as "committees for the defense of the revolution," such as the Cubans developed. Of course they are subject to the approval of the existing military regime. But it does not take a great deal of political acumen to see that these committees can also be the foundation for a broad, popular, mass-based struggle against the counterrevolution.

The fact that the government validated them lends them legality but does not necessarily exclude their independent action during the course of the struggle. Certainly the counter-revolutionary elements who have been observing these developments in the country are not blind to this either. Should these committees at long last be set, up and begin functioning on a mass basis, they will contain the very same soldiers, workers, and neighborhood people in the various communities who were responsible in the main for warding off the counter-revolutionary fascist attempts of last September and March. These were organized by the Portuguese CP, its allies and mass organizations.

One so-called radical weekly here, the Militant, organ of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), has denounced the committees and dismissed them out of hand as being mere minions of the CP and the military. Their choice instead?

The Constituent Assembly. Of course -- the same choice as the bourgeoisie. This is the most scoundrelly embellishment of a phony bourgeois parliament that a working class organization can make.

It is one thing for Marxists to seek participation even in the most reactionary bourgeois parliament. But it is another thing to actually prefer this phony bourgeois parliament to working class, broad-based committees which in truth and in fact have proven their mettle by twice defeating the counter-revolution -- last September and again in March. The Militant takes advantage of the fact that the CP paper here, the Daily World, does not adequately or correctly defend these committees. But that's another matter. The SWP's defense of the Constituent Assembly is a vulgarized space-age version of Kautsky's defense of the Constituent Assembly when the Bolsheviks dismissed it in Russia.

Cunhal understands perfectly well what the Constituent Assembly means. His problem is how and by what means to conduct the struggle.

Although the Militant article maintains that the SP is just as bad as the CP, it is nevertheless a thousand times more for a corrupt, imperialist-controlled social democracy than for the CP. Jerry Foley writing in a previous installment in the Militant considered the electoral victory of the SP as a real opening for "socialism."

But that election also opened wide the gates for the counterrevolution. That is the lesson of bourgeois parliamentarism. It does not negate the necessity of working class parties to utilize elections when necessary and appropriate, but they must never become captives of parliamentary cretinism, prisoners of bourgeois democratic illusions.


While we have consistently criticized the CP for its policies in Portugal, and in no way share the position on the military held by the CP, in the crucial battle that is unfolding we are completely with them and with all the other working class organizations that are sure to take the brunt of the bourgeois counter-revolutionary assault once it is unleashed. We only hope that this time the counter-revolution will not only be thrust back, but that the CP and its allies will break out of the limitations imposed by their alliance with the military and will push through, along with other working class organizations a full-scale proletarian revolution and end slavery to monopoly capitalism once and for all.

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