Portugal's July Days

By Sam Marcy

July 22, 1975

The Portuguese Revolution is now going through the agony of its "July days. " Communist Party headquarters in ten cities all across Northern Portugal have either been sacked or burned. Progressive newspapers are being hindered from distribution. Many revolutionary militants and progressive activists have had to take cover against mob violence. Others have gone into hiding. A wild witch hunt is in full progress, fueled by bourgeois reaction and clerical obscurantism. As always, persecution weakens some, strengthens others, and confusion takes a high toll.

It was all set off by a week-long series of demonstrations called under the banner of the Socialist Party (SP) but basically gathering together hundreds of thousands of reactionary elements, many of whom just a few weeks ago would not have dared to take to the streets. Nevertheless, these demonstrations have failed in their principal objective. The aim was to topple the government. They failed to achieve this.


They did, however, bring to the surface the deep split in the governing junta. It was shown without a doubt that President Gomes, Foreign Minister Antunes, Admiral Vitor Crespo, Captain Lourenco, and others constitute a right-wing, bourgeois military grouping. In opposition are the more progressive junior officers in the governing council of the Armed Forces Movement (AFM).

Gomes's readiness to displace Premier Goncalves in a new Cabinet with the Socialists and Popular Democrats, probably to the exclusion of the Portuguese CP and Portuguese Democratic Movement (MDP), constitutes an open breach. This was made clear when Gomes issued a statement saying a new Cabinet would be formed which "would respect the will of the Portuguese people and create the need to give representation to various currents of socialist political thought."

The phrase "respect for the will of the Portuguese people" is a catchword used by the Socialist Party as a rallying slogan for the rightists. Gomes's use of this phrase clearly refers to Mario Soares and his colleagues and does not embrace Marxist or revolutionary "currents of socialist political thought."

The SP is not opposed to the whole military -- only to the left wing of it, of which they consider Premier Goncalves to be the principal leader and an exponent of communist ideology.


According to today's New York Times, the recent publication of a speech by Goncalves to the Armed Forces General Assembly "has helped to explain why battle lines have been so acutely drawn." Goncalves is quoted as having said that the principal problem of socialism was "the taking of power by the workers." Moreover, he is said to have stated that this entails leadership by a vanguard of the workers. Of course, he meant the CP. But he added that that includes other organizations that fight for real socialism, which he defined as "the domination of the workers over the means of production and over the conditions of their existence."

It is this view that is apparently at the bottom of the crisis that caused the SP to break from the Cabinet along with the PPD, because if acted upon this view would actually mean the dictatorship of the proletariat and a workers government. This explains the furious opposition of the SP and, of course, the PPD, both of whom are really committed to the bourgeois system. This is why Soares has become the darling of international finance capital and is embraced by the entire bourgeoisie. And this explains why Soares has said that Goncalve is the key to the problem.

The pressure of the counter-revolutionary demonstrations brought to the fore a line of political differentiation, long building up in the military, which has now reached the boiling point. Only the intervention of the more progressive military leaders who are concentrated in what is called the Fifth Division, the political arm of the AFM, has momentarily made it possible to paper over the split. A communique from the Fifth Division strongly supported Premier Goncalves and by implication rejected Gomes's move for a new cabinet.

It is widely reported that the so-called moderates (bourgeois elements) have a majority in the High Council of the Revolution. However, in a revolutionary, showdown struggle, this is not at all what counts. What counts is, whom will the rank-and-file soldiers and sailors follow? Will they respond to a revolutionary call to defend the socialist revolution in the struggle against fascism, or will they become pawns of the counter-revolution? This basically is the issue.

About 10 percent of the old military were purged. Percentages alone, however, don't count. It depends on who among them has influence and material forces to rally in the counter-revolution.


The SP demonstrations were understood everywhere in the imperialist world to be not protests against the bourgeois military as such, but against communism.

While the thrust of the demonstrations was against Goncalves, it was clear in the Oporto as well as in the Lisbon demonstrations that these mobilizations were anti-communist and anti-working class in character. They were in fact preparations for a counterrevolution. The fact that they fell short of their projected goal gives the working class and its political organizations the opportunity to resume the initiative, to launch a new revolutionary working class offensive.

It is entirely possible that these demonstrations constitute the high-water mark of the counterrevolution's so-called popular support. It was fortunate that the military did not provoke a street struggle against the demonstrators. It would have been a tragic error that could have unleashed the right-wing military coup for which the SP demonstrations were supposed to be the popular cover.

Undoubtedly, there has been a shift to the right in the military. The military is and has been a bourgeois institution. It faithfully reflects the class stratifications in bourgeois society. By and large the officer corps, such as Gomes, Antunes, Crespo, and others, are the guardians of the bourgeois order, this acute class struggle in the country cannot but result in at least some of the progressive officers responding to the class needs of the workers, peasants, and the poor.

A split in the military is absolutely inevitable. It is just a question as to when and how it takes place and under what circumstances. The political organizations of the workers can and must assert their class independence and utilize such allies within the military as they can find, but above all they must concentrate on the rank-and-file soldiers and sailors.


Unless the right-wing in the military acts immediately under the aegis of the U.S. and the Western Allies, there still remains ample opportunity to stop the counter-revolution and regain the political initiative by slowly starting to build the working class defense organizations.

Advantage must be taken of the already existing popular committees composed of workers, organized in the shops the neighborhoods etc. They must be made nationwide in character and draw in all strata of the oppressed. They must be given wide initiative to continue the takeover of all aspects of the economy.

The Socialist Workers Party over here, in its paper The Militant, falls in with world reaction again in characterizing the proposed people's committees as "totalitarian." Instead it calls for a parliamentary coalition of the CP and SP. But there had been a coalition between these two parties all along! It is the SP, which is opposed to the radical measures being taken against the capitalists and landlords, that in effect is demanding that the CP be ousted from the coalition with its attacks on CP headquarters and its slogan of "Goncalves out!"


The bourgeoisie is continuing to deliberately sabotage production. The principal economic organizations of the bourgeoisie are defying the government insolently handing it ultimatums, blaming the workers for the economic chaos in the country, calling upon them for more and more sacrifices.

The economic situation will surely pass from the stage of deterioration at the present time to that of collapse if the bourgeoisie is permitted to sabotage industries and the workers are not given full political control of the economy.

Every effort must be made to make arms available to the popular committees and to forge and strengthen fraternal relations with the rank-and-file soldiers and sailors. No form of economic aid from abroad can now appreciably change the character of the economic crisis. The entire struggle is now political in character.

The counter-revolution having made its major political thrust, the arena of the struggle will now shift to other areas. The New York Times of July 19 and the Washington Post of July 20 have now both admitted that a veritable army of thousands of fascist elements is training for intervention from nearby Spain. Elements from among the soldiers and sailors returning from Mozambique are speculated to be possible fertile soil for counter-revolutionary insurgency.

Under these circumstances, the status quo politically economically and militarily is absolutely impossible. A country so sharply divided along class lines and locked in most acute incipient struggle is pregnant either with proletarian revolution or a resurgence of fascist military rule. A bourgeois parliamentary solution, which is feverishly being sought behind the scenes, can only be a brief interval between the two.

Now, in the interim, is the time to build what in reality amounts to a Portuguese form of Soviets, in embryo. Such are the small, modest beginnings of the popular committees. It remains for the Portuguese CP and other left-wing militant political organizations of the workers to block together and carry out this task in this hour of peril.


The international capitalist furor over the seizure of the paper Republica by left-wing workers in Portugal was conspicuously absent last summer when a left-wing paper was closed. At that time the rightist forces in the government gathered around General Spinola not only banned a newspaper but arrested its editor Luis Saldanha Sanches, because he had called on Portuguese troops not to fight in Africa.

There was no international "democratic" outcry then. There were no ads in the New York Times. The very reactionary forces who today are rallying under the phony cover of "democracy" and "plurality" were perfectly content to see a critic on the left stifled.

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