Álvaro Cunhal 1993
Spoken: at Conference at the City hall of Ponte da Barca, May 21st 1993;
Translated: from the Portugese by Isabel O'Sullivan;
Transcribed: by Filipe Diniz.
The proposed issue for this talk – “Communism today and tomorrow” – in the Town Hall cycle, whose invitation I think suggests, facing the deep changes in world situation, namely the collapse of USSR and other Eastern Europe countries, the need to answer legitimate questions that certainly many of you ask yourselves on reflecting on the issue: what is it to be a communist after all? Does it exist today any objective for the communists? If it exists, what is it?
I will try in this talk to answer these questions. I anticipate, in synthesis, as an introductory idea that history, facts, life show and justify that, after all, communism keeps answering the deepest needs and desires of workers and peoples.
I will try to justify this statement in the short words such a talk permits.
The correct appreciation of the times we live.
To whoever may want to securely judge the meaning of great events, both at national or worldwide level, and the perspectives of society evolution, it becomes necessary to hold a precise observation of our current times.
In this ending of the 20th century multiple interpretations and characterizations surge of what this century meant and will mean in the history of humanity. Considering the collapse of the USSR and Eastern Europe regimes, it’s outcome in the change in the correlation of forces in the world and the imperialism’s new pretention of restoring imperialist’s dominion, exploitation and world hegemony, spreads the idea that the communist project has failed, that “communism is dead,” that “communism has no future” and that, after all, capitalism has proved to be a system capable to resolve humanity’s problems, a superior system better than a socialist one.
Our opinion is diverse.
Neither did the communist project of a new and better society lose validity, nor has capitalism proved or proves to be capable to resolve the major problems of humanity nor to be considered a definitive system.
It is true that capitalism has suffered, along the 20th century, changes in its economic and social structures. The internationalization of economic processes and cooperation and integration systems have been developed. The productive forces received a powerful impulse owing to the scientific-technical revolution.
But capitalism kept and keeps its essential features, as a system of exploitation, oppression and aggression, marked by injustice, inequalities and social scourges. Capitalism is a system in which exist exploiter and exploited classes, classes that dominate and classes that are dominated, classes that rule for themselves and others that are ruled, classes that are a population minority that concentrate wealth and profits excessively of it and classes that are the overwhelming majority of the population that live with serious shortages and that, in very large sectors, live in a dark social zone of poverty and misery.
Internationally, the capitalism is a system in which the most developed, richer and stronger countries exploit, dominate, subdue and oppress in the most varied ways the less developed, poorer and weaker countries, maintaining and creating, worldwide, immense zones were hunger affects and kills millions of human beings.
Historically, the capitalism in the 20th century is marked by two world wars that killed thousands of millions, by regional wars, military interventions and aggressions, by acts of state terrorism, by interference and imposition to other peoples of the will of the most powerful.
Only anyone who is directly interested in such a system, or anyone who does not think or wishes to think in what it is and signifies, can consider capitalism as a system that corresponds to the needs, the interests, the people’s real desires.
The indignation and struggle against the evils of capitalism keep being just, justified and opportune. The ideal of a better society keeps being valid, a society in which exploitation, inequalities, injustice and great social scourges are eliminated and in which the needs, interests and the deepest aspirations of workers and peoples are fulfilled.
In this ending of the 20th century, the century’s experience shows that there are reasons not to go backwards in history, bounding the most just human aspiration to a hopeless dream or an utopia, but to insist instead in the struggle for an ideal that begun to be materialized and carried out precisely in this 20th century – the communist ideal.
As we judge the events that occurred during the century and the revolutions that took place, many people do not reflect that with the 1917 Russian revolution and the creation of the USSR the humanity endeavored, for the first time in many thousands of years in history, to build a new society with no exploited nor explorer classes, a society of free and equal human beings.
Currently one assists to a flustered effort to rewrite history. They seek to wipe out or to hinder capitalism irreparable evils. And to wipe out, adulterate and detract all that the workers and peoples struggles brought of positive to humanity.
It is true that the task of building a new society – the socialist society – has revealed to be more difficult, complex, irregular, eventful and lengthy than we, communists, expected and announced.
There was absolutization as objective laws of a non-stop course of laws regarding the economic and social evolution in a certain historical period. There was absolutization of tendential laws regarding the capitalism system which, being tendential, could be restrained, and in a certain manner were, by factors that contradicted them. Socialism was thought to be irreversible. Economic competition between the two systems was considered to be inevitably resolved in the short-term in favor of socialism.
Subjective factors were underestimated, as were all the consequences of serious mistakes, the possibility of a withdrawing from communist ideals leading to an effective change of the exercise of popular political power with its origin in power created by the revolution itself, the degeneration of socialist democracy, the stagnation and ulterior block of productive forces, the peoples’ opposition towards power and, as a result, the degeneration and breakdown of the socialist socioeconomic system.
In spite of those incorrect appreciations and previsions, the fact is that the 20th century will be recalled in history precisely for that gigantic enterprise of social change that was the concretization of the socialist society. For its great achievements and conquests. For the radical change in people’s welfare. By the important rights achieved by workers. By the collapse of the colonial system and the conquering of independence by peoples dominated exploited and colonized for centuries by foreign states. In history the 20th century is marked, not by any superiority of capitalism, but by the deep and revolutionary social changes that took place in result of the workers and peoples struggle worldwide.
The 20th century was not the century of the “end of communism” (as they proclaim), but the century of “the beginning of communism” as the concretization and building of a new society for the good of the human being.
Any political project that remains settled, immobile, unable to answer to new situations, new phenomena, new events is condemned to be overcome by history.
Social life is in permanent movement. In a certain historical period, a political project that maintains fundamental guidelines and objectives coherently cannot in any case, in order to be valid, close its eyes to reality, nor consider that theory and practical solutions hold absolute and unmodifiable truths. We, Marxists, consider that in society as in nature there exist, both in situations and phenomena, objective relations of cause-effect. We are determinist. But we are not fatalist. The dialectics that inform our theoretical principles mentions and explains reality in movement, is critical by nature and implies the refusal of absolute truths, including the formulation “of laws of dialectic.”
To accuse the PCP of being an orthodox party is a spiteful accusation. Orthodoxism is immobility and crystallization of thought, faith instead of political conviction, incapacity to reflect, to objectively analyze and follow creatively the theoretical elaboration on objective realities change.
Therefore, our Party’s current reflection is not nor could to be the same as 72 years ago when the PCP was created. We learn from life, from facts, realities, experiences.
We correct and enrich our analysis. We study changes in all aspects of society and human life.
This attitude explains and signifies that the communist ideal, our socialist society project for Portugal, is not currently the same as when our party was created.
For many years, the socialist society that we pointed as an objective was defined (and we did right in doing so) according to two fundamental references: the generic definitions, at times circumstantial, of Marx, Engels and Lénine and the solutions and achievements of the first socialist state – The Soviet Socialist Republics Union.
The revolutionary processes and changes throughout the century, the undertaking and building of socialism in the most varied economic, social and political conditions in countries of all continents, the diversity of victories and success and of the defeats and failures, namely the USSR and Eastern Europe countries dismantlement, proved however that there is no and cannot exist a universal model of socialism, that the difference of situations implies the difference of solutions, and that in the building of a new society it is necessary to perceive the elements that push forward and ensure and negative factors that oppose and may drive towards its own destruction.
By advancing along unknown paths of the building of a new society it is indispensable not only to discover the right solutions but also the prevention and attention regarding the unexpected and the unforeseen along with the preparation to be able to give creative, adequate answers to new situations.
If we consider the 20th century as a century of great achievements and revolutionary social changes, we have to put the question of knowing to which social and political forces they are due.
The great progressive changes that took place worldwide during the 20th century are linked to three major elements of which they are inseparable: the workers struggle, namely the struggle of the working class, of the popular masses, of subdued peoples; the revolutionary forces action in guiding and mobilizing the popular changing energy, with the communist parties outstanding role; a revolutionary theory, Marxism- Leninism, that became a material force by gaining the masses and allowed not only to explain the world but to guide the transforming action.
The reflection on these elements and their importance holds numerous aspects, that by their amplitude and complexity do not fit in a short discussion. Allow me only some matters referring theory.
Considering the influence and strength of the revolutionary theory in the 20th century the attempt to oppose Marx’s thought and Lénine’s thought and vice-versa is groundless. Marx theories were developed by Lénine on the ground of the analysis of capitalism development, of the economic and social changes, of new scientific knowledge, of the experience of revolutionary struggle.
It is symptomatic that those that begin by abandoning Lénine end up by abandoning Marx.
The abandoning of Leninism by some communist parties drove them to convert into social-democrat or social-democratizing parties. The abandoning of Marx’s thought by socialist and social-democrat parties that for years affirmed themselves of Marxist ideological inspiration led them to withdraw entirely from socialist positions.
With Marx, utopia converted itself into political thinking and into revolutionary action. With Lénine, political project and revolutionary action converted in victorious revolution, in the concrete realization of the objective of building a new society – the socialist society, considered as the first phase of communism.
To silence Lénine is to silence the socialist revolution, the great and historical achievement of the October Revolution and the powerful and decisive impulse that the socialist revolution and revolutionary theory offered workers and people’s emancipating struggle worldwide throughout the 20th century.
We, Portuguese communists, consider as a living element of our ideological heritage, of our political experience, of our objectives, the historical teaching and action from Marx and Lénine. Marxism-Leninism, dialectic theory that it is, keeps the validity and actuality of its essential principles and values.
At the same time that we confirm the actuality of revolutionary theory at this ending of the century, we underline that theory cannot to be understood as a whole of principles considered as absolute and unchangeable truths. Theory is born from life and must respond creatively to life.
This assertion demands a broad and serene approach, in historical terms, of some of large misunderstandings.
For many years, we stated a crystallization and absolutization of theoretical principles in the majority of communist, principles that at the right moment corresponded rightly to a certain situation, but that were overcome in new or other situations.
It was frequent amid the communist movement to seek the answer to situations not through the respective analysis and the correspondent theoretical deepening and enrichment, but through Marx and Lenin’s texts transcriptions, of contestable validity in the new conditions.
Concerning the definition of the perspective of the socialist revolution, weighted a simplistic vision of economic, social and political processes and the superimposition of crystallized analysis, principles and ideas to changes in reality, at times very deep.
So, as an example, starting from the just conclusion that in an advanced stage of capitalism development, the appropriation of the means of production by the capitalists having as a corollary the exploitation of workers not only counters but prevents the development of the productive forces, one comes (correctly) to the conclusion that such contradictions would be overcome by the socialist mode of production or, in other words, through the social propriety of major means of production and the abolition of capitalist exploitation, opening the path unto a fast and impetuous development of the productive forces.
The socialist revolutions that took place in the world proved that conclusion to be just. The October Revolution of 1917 transformed the backwards semi-feudal Russia in the world’s second economic power in a short historical time. In practically all countries where socialist revolutions took place the development of the productive forces was impressing namely in industry and agriculture.
Both the theoretical principles and practice legitimated the conclusion that, in the economic competition between capitalism and socialism, deepening of the capitalism economic crisis and proceeding the economic development of socialist countries, these would overcome capitalism in a short historic period, signifying the victory of socialist mode of production in worldwide terms, the near arrival of the historic change from capitalism to socialism.
The current question in our reflection is to know which were the reasons why beyond a certain moment such evolution did not proceed. Which are the reasons that made the economic development of socialist countries slow down and enter a stagnation phase, namely in the USSR. Which are the reasons why capitalism in the most developed countries had the capacity of a new and powerful impulse of the production forces, namely with new scientific achievements and new and revolutionary and technologic changes.
Reality shows that society evolution was considered in a schematic way, that an absolutized value was attributed to objective laws of development. It shows, on the other hand, that in the building of the new society principles, guidelines and solutions that constitute an integral part of the communist ideal were abandoned and that, if they had been be ensured and applied we are certain that they would to have confirmed the rigour of the referred theoretical conclusion.
On our part we have reflected on these lessons, and have taken the necessary consequences in the investigation, elaboration, correction and deepening of theory and in a more rigorous definition of the project of a socialist society for Portugal.
This way of considering theory and revolutionary practice comes from a long way in the PCP. It became particularly imperative with the dismantlement of USSR and other existing Eastern Europe regimes. These events were joyfully announced by capitalist propagandists as a proof that socialist revolution had been an historical deceit, the historical failure of the communist ideal. In consequence the “death of communism” was announced and from there some concluded and announced the inevitability and soon to come death of communist parties.
Such ideas, heavily spread, rise some fundamental considerations.
In first place, both the October Revolution 1917 in Russia, the creation of the Soviet Socialist Republic Union and the building of a new society, as in other revolutions of socialist nature in Eastern Europe, Asia, America and with more limited objectives in Africa signal extraordinary achievements, changes and progressive conquests of economic, social, cultural and political nature that, as referred before, changed the world’s face in the course of the 20th century.
In second place, what failed was not the communist ideal but a society “model” that in fundamental aspects deviated from the such an ideal. It was not only that “human mistakes” took place, although they existed, but instead a conception, a political practice and an exercise of power that in fact withdrew from the communist ideal.
They deviated in what concerns the central issue of power and its exercise, by replacing the workers’ power, the popular power, by a strongly centralized power every time more and more distant from the aspirations, participation, intervention and will of the people.
They deviated in what concerns democracy, always justly proclaimed as element and value integrating a socialist society but, after a revolutionary phase, suffering serious limitations of repressive nature and law infractions in its political aspect.
They deviated in what concerns the socioeconomic structures and the economic development, with excessive centralization and statization, the elimination of other forms of property and administration, the disdain of the role of the market and the demotivation of workers effort and productivity.
They deviated in what concerns nature and role of the communist party, equally with a highly centralized and bureaucratic leadership, the progressive detachment of workers and popular masses, the fusion and confusion of party and state functions and the administrative imposition of decisions both in the party and the state.
They deviated in what concerns theory, on one hand by the crystallization and dogmatization of Marxism-Leninism and, on the other, by the revision and abandon of essential principles – in both cases by its imposition as state ideology.
These considerations are of particular importance not only for the historical analyses of the events, but as an experience to be assimilated for a more rigorous definition of the communist future objectives in the building of socialism.
In third place, such a serious situation demanded not only the correction of punctual mistakes but a radical change of guide-lines and a real restructuration of society at the economic, social and political levels. Strengthening the great revolutionary achievements, reestablishing the people ‘s political power, establishing in effect state democracy, both in the party and society, surmounting stagnation, profiting the socioeconomic system potentialities, far from being exhausted, – it was mandatory to promote creative renovation and reinforcement of socialist society.
When the Soviet Union announced the “perestroika” those objectives were pointed out as fundamental and that explains the favorable position and the solidary attitude the PCP adopted regarding the CPSU. It also explains the reserves that we presented from the beginning relating the negativist attitude regarding the past, the new ideologic formulations and mainly the conceptions, objectives, counter-revolutionary forces and processes purposing the destruction of socialism and the restoration of capitalism that immediately begun to develop under the shadow of “perestroika” and became extremely dangerous, because they came from the highest instances of state’s and party’s power, from leaders that betrayed their compromises and duties.
The evolution in the situation of the USSR and the Eastern Europe countries unfortunately proved the PCP’s reserves and attitudes regarding the “perestroika” in progress. The USSR dismantlement and liquidation and the catastrophic situation created in those countries, the change of worldwide force correlation, the utilization of the new situation by imperialism to once more attempt to impose its world hegemony, against the workers and peoples liberating struggle, using all weapons (economic, financial, political, diplomatic, military), interferences, interventions, aggressions and wars that we daily assist indicate that the need of the communists struggle subsists and needs to be reinforced towards those objectives that were, over the century, the reason of its existence and struggle.
In fourth place we, Portuguese communists, had never before undergone the analyses and critics concerning all its elements, and much less expressed those we currently present prior to the dismantlement of the USSR and other Eastern Europe countries. We had hope (which the events proved to be too optimistic) in a correction concerning the pointed out negative aspects of the evolution and policy in those countries.
It is however indispensable to underline that in our struggle, in our concepts, in our Program, in our theoretical principles, in our revolutionary practice, in our objectives for socialism in Portugal, we had for a long time ago adopted and followed a path of our own basically different from such a “model” and, in our opinion corresponding to the communist ideal in essential aspects as we, Portuguese communists, always understood it and struggled and struggle for so it comes to take place in Portugal.
A “model” failed. But the communist ideal keeps being valid, alive and with future.
The relation between socialism and democracy was along the century and keeps being today, both in Portugal and the world, one of the major issues of ideological and political struggle.
The world revolutionary movement’s experience and our own struggle’s experience confirms the idea that four main features of democracy are inseparable and complementary: the economic, the social, the political and the cultural.
Experience confirms that a fifth feature, the national one, independence and national sovereignty (that internationalization and integration processes may jeopardize) is frequently necessary to ensure, in a certain country (such is the case of Portugal) the democracy and its deepening.
At the same time experience confirms, in the inverse sense, that governments at the service of capital develop – although in diverse grades – an anti-democratic behavior about those same four features and frequently an anti-national behavior concerning the fifth stated feature.
There are some that want to convince us that in their political practice the four features are separable. There exist parties that affirm themselves great defenders of political democracy and at the same time defend – and when in government impose – the power and dominion of the great monopolist groups and the liquidation of worker’s rights and freedoms.
However, it is easy to see that in a capitalist country the absence of economic and social democracy corresponds evidently to serious limitations to political democracy.
This is not a new thesis of ours. The PCP assumed a critical position, namely towards the so-called bourgeois parliamentary democracy regimes in countries in which the socioeconomic system is monopolist capitalism.
In a monopolist capitalism country political democracy holds a class nature and is strongly conditioned and even determined by that class nature. The power system and the state are conceived to guarantee both the great capital economic and political dominion. Although citizen’s rights equality is recognized in legal terms, many serious discriminations and inequalities are imposed. The abyssal inequality in economic and financial and material means between explorer and exploited classes creates an effective inequality regarding the exercise of democratic freedoms and rights. Political power is directly performed by the great capital (state monopolist capitalism) or indirectly by its agents. As supreme guarantee, political democracy in a capitalist country is generally conceived (namely through electoral systems) as a way to impede that the workers may come to replace the capitalists in the government.
In the current Portuguese situation, the PSD government action is a clear example of antidemocratic offensives simultaneous, complementary and inseparable in the pointed out four features.
In economy, by rebuilding and restoring monopolist capitalism, promoting a hasty capital centralization and concentration, accentuating the distance between a pole of accumulated great wealth and a pole of poverty and misery.
In the social, by promoting unemployment and job precariousness, dismissals, salary limitation, liquidation of rights and social benefits, penury of pensioners and handicapped, women´s discrimination, health services degrading, inaccessible housing, education interdicted to the large youth mass through the increase of school fees.
In the political, by disrespecting the Constitution and law, by governmentalization and absolutization of power, by liquidating mechanisms of government action control, by corseting opposition rights, by creating new political polices, by protecting corruption itself, by taking hold and instrumentalizing the great media, by elaborating new electoral laws in order to maintain power even in case of losing majority in the future.
In the cultural, by resuscitating backward and reactionary values and imposing a policy of partidarization and sacristy in education and in the state’s intervention in the areas of science and art.
In the national, by having a submitted attitude towards the EEC sacrificing Portuguese interests to foreign interests, by ratifying the Maastricht Treaty, which attempts Portugal’s independence and sovereignty.
We, Communists, conceive the elements and values democracy in a different manner.
It has no grounds the utmost spread idea in anticommunist campaigns that communists struggle in fact for economic changes and social objectives, but not for freedom, not for political democracy.
By attentively analyzing the immediate struggle objectives at a short and medium term, and the PCP’s programmatic objectives along the years of the dictatorship, the April Revolution, since then and now -, one always finds an incontestable evidence (although answering to diverse situations with diverse measures) the simultaneity and complementarity of democratic objectives in the economic, social, political and cultural areas, always holding particular importance to freedom and political democracy.
Life has proved that one of the most solid warnings of the true meaning of a party’s or government program or promise regarding the future, is the nature of its present action. The true meaning of a party’s program true direction can be perceived, more perhaps than in the words, in its action, in its struggle through the years.
The coherence of a political force reveals itself as much as its most distant objectives are present in its immediate struggle, as well as its immediate struggle objectives reflect the values of the more distant objectives.
Let’s examine the PCP’s daily struggle and programs over the years.
It is not excessive to recall that, along almost half a century of fascist dictatorship, the PCP was the great force of the resistance, the great impeller and organizer of the popular and democratic struggle, and that in the face of repression and terror no other political force fought such a decided combat, with such dedication and sacrifice, in the name of freedom and democracy.
It is not excessive to recall that generations and generations of communists dedicated their lives to the struggle for freedom and democracy. That thousands of communists suffered persecutions, prison, tortures, condemnations by puppet courts. That there were communists that lived and struggled in the underground for 10, 20 or even 30 years in a row. Communists that spent 20 or more years in prison. That there were communists tortured to death by the police for refusing to denounce their comrades. That many communists succeeded in evading prison so that they could, once more, dedicate themselves to the struggle, with all its hardships and dangers.
Nor is it excessive to recall that, on the April 25th, the communists, contrarily to the accusations moved against them, performed a role in many circumstances decisive for the establishment of freedom and democracy.
It is pure invention to say that the communists wanted to install a dictatorship upon the April Revolution. Who wanted to impede a democratic regime and impose a dictatorship were those who, during the Palma Carlos government tried a coup in July 1974, tried another in September 28th and another on March 11th 1975, and also those who, having participated in the November 25th coup, wanted to take it to extreme consequences intending, among other measures, to illegalize the PCP and liquidate the trade-union movement.
It is incontestable that the communists held in all these years a most important role regarding the founding of the democratic regime, the elaboration of the Constitution by the Constituent Assembly, and its promulgation in April 2nd 1976.
The PCP’s hard and unique experience in what regards direct knowledge, throughout dozens of years of the dictatorship, of what the absence of freedom and repression means, the fact that, throughout those years, the struggle for freedom and democracy having been a central objective and axis of the Party’s struggle in all fronts, inserted and rooted the values of freedom and democracy in PCP’s objectives at short, medium and long term, including the objective of building of a new society liberated from exploitation, oppression, injustice, inequalities and capitalism social scourges – a socialist society.
The same conclusions can be taken on examining the PCP Programs.
It was so in PCP’s Program approved in 1965 for the antifascist revolution, characterized as a “democratic and national revolution,” having as a “central objective” the achievement of freedom within the framework of eight fundamental objectives: the fascist state destruction and the founding of a democratic regime, monopoly power liquidation and the promoting of general economic development, the agrarian reform in the large estates region, raise the living level of the working class and the people in general, democratize education and culture, liberate Portugal from imperialism, recognize to the Portuguese colonies’ peoples the right to immediate independence and adopt a policy of peace and friendship with all peoples.
It was so in the April Revolution in the action of the workers and popular masses that led to the great democratic achievements, later consecrated in the Constitution.
It has been so in the struggle against the policies of the right-wing Governments since the counter-revolution process begun.
It is so in PCP’s actual Program for “an advanced democracy at the threshold of the 21ist century,” pointing out “five components or fundamental objectives”: a freedom regime in which the people decides its destiny and a democratic, representative, participated and modern state; an economic development based on a mixed economy at the service of people and the country; a social policy that guarantees the improvement of the people’s living conditions; a cultural policy that ensures access to free creativity and cultural fruition; and an independent and sovereign homeland with a policy of peace, friendship and cooperation with all peoples.
It is so also in the socialist society that we propose as a perspective to the Portuguese people. The socialist society we struggle for must deepen the democratic objectives in the four features and incorporate and develop the fundamental elements (economic, social, politic, cultural) of advanced democracy (PCP Program, XIV Congress, Chapter III p. 69) in whose definition and formulation “are projected as realities, objective needs, experiences and aspirations, the great values of the April Revolution.”
The PCP’s XIV Congress, which took place last year, had as motto “Democracy and Socialism – Portugal’s Future.” This motto points out two ideas and two fundamental elements of our project and our struggle.
The daily struggle, the immediate objectives, the programmatic ideas for short and medium term, the project of a socialist society always had for us, Portuguese communists, democracy as an essential element.
Economic, social and cultural democracy that are inexistent in capitalist system countries and a component of the communist ideal. And political democracy, that in capitalist system countries is limited, corseted and discriminated with class criteria; and that according to the communist ideal must ensure the effective popular power, inspection and control of government action, forms of participative democracy, a democratic state and equality, along with the effective exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens.
Contrarily of what anticommunism accuses us, the communist ideal is, of all known political projects the most democratic and humanist.
The April Revolution is one of the most overpowering moments in Portugal’s history. Set off by the military uprising on the 25th and immediately followed by a popular uprising, the revolution deeply changed the Portuguese society. It was before all the fascist dictatorship overturning, the liberation from of 48 years of oppression and terror, the conquest of freedom and the establishing of political democracy. But it was more than that. It was the liberation of the great monopolist groups economic and political dominion with the nationalization of basic sectors. The replacing of the Ribatejo and Alentejo huge estate property by new exploitations that during the process of agrarian reform, recovered abandoned land, radically increased production, ended unemployment and ensured the improvement of living conditions to the populations of those regions. It represented the conquest of important rights and social benefits to workers, women, youth, the most vulnerable strata.
There exist great differences of opinion on the nature of the April Revolution. We, the communists, at the time of the dictatorship, in the 1965 VI Congress, on defining in our Party’s program the objectives of the future antifascist revolution, did not consider it as a socialist revolution, but underlined meanwhile that its complete accomplishment “would create favorable conditions for the evolution of the Portuguese society towards socialism.”
Many of those that today attack the April Revolution, considering it was an evil and an error and so rewrite history, accuse the PCP of having desired, against the general will, to impose changes of socialist nature and of having pointed the path of socialism to the revolution.
Such opinions ask to be clarified.
Contrarily to parties that seek to obliterate what were their declared positions and promises, we, the communists, never had or have anything to hinder about what our objectives, intervention and struggle were or are.
On talking about the 25th April, of democracy and socialism, it is worth to recall two facts.
The first is that the Constitution elaborated and approved in 1975/76 by the Constituent Assembly, defined “the Portuguese Republic” as “a democratic State (...) having as objective, “to ensure the transition unto socialism through the creation of conditions for the democratic exercise of power by the working classes” (article 2º). Explained that “the economic-social organization of the Portuguese Republic is based on the development of socialist production relations, through the collective appropriation of the principal means of production and soils” (article 80º) eliminating private monopolies creation, proceeding to nationalizations and carrying out the agrarian reform (article 81º). Besides, the whole Constitution described the system and the regime as a “ transition phase unto socialism” (article 89º).
Meanwhile, the Constitution was not a creation of the communist deputies alone, nor was it approved only with communist’s votes, at the time 30 in a total of 250.The Constitution was elaborated by the Constituent Assembly and approved with the favorable votes of the PS and the PSD (at the time, PPD).
The second, a fact that many try to forget is that it was not the PCP only but in general the forces that supported fascism’s liquidation, that pointed the Portuguese Democracy in their programs as a path towards socialism.
So, the Socialist Party Program, with Mario Soares as leader at the time, proclaimed (“Declaration of Principles” approved in the December 1974 Congress) that “capitalism is an oppressive and brutal force,” and “the PS struggles for its total destruction” (1.11.) “fights the capitalist system and the bourgeois domination” (1.6.), “repudiates the path of those movements who, calling themselves social-democrats or even socialists end up carrying keeping, deliberately or in fact, the capitalism’s structures and serve the interests of imperialism (1.7),defends “a spread out plan for nationalizations” (2.2.5.) and “a spread out plan for the agrarian reform for large estate expropriation” (2.2.7), and so on...
Also, the current PSD, then PPD, having as secretary-general Sá Carneiro, pointed the same direction. In the Program approved in the first National Congress on the 23/24 November 1974, criticized “the private property without substantial limitations.” Indicated as an objective “to modify the economy’s structure progressively expanding the social property of the means of production” (pag.100). Defended nationalizations, namely in “key sectors and basic industries” (p.103) as “one mean to achieve a just and free society"(p.102) and an “agrarian restructuration” considering an “Agrarian Reform Institute” (p.115). In synthesis, it declared to be PPD’s objective the “settling up in Portugal” of a “democratic and humanist socialism.” (p.99).
Both the deep changes and the revolutionary conquests that took place during the Revolution, as the inscription of socialism in the party’s programs as an explicitly proclaimed objective shows how such changes and conquests corresponded to objective needs and to popular opinion and will expressed in those years in the irresistible revolutionary wave.
Serious divisions and conflicts within the armed forces, external pressures and interferences, anarchizing excesses of leftist groups, conspiracies, coups and attempts of coups against the revolutionary course by parties and forces that ought to support it, led unto a counter-revolutionary process, that still carries on, with the purpose of the destruction of the April conquests and the restoration of the monopolist capitalism of the fascism times, the destruction of workers fundamental rights and, if not the establishment of a new dictatorship, the degeneration of political democracy and the establishment of a regime of authoritarian nature.
The PS shelved socialism. And the PSD dis not even shelve it because it simply tore it apart from the beginning.
The PCP had and has a different behavior. The building of a new society, a socialist society, as a development of advanced democracy in all its features, is an assumed objective as one of the reasons of the Party’s own existence.
The words that say “struggle for a socialist society” are not to PCP words said in a certain moment to the blowing of favorable winds. It is an ideal, an objective, a belief, a struggle, always clear and coherently assumed, even in the most difficult and unfavorable conditions.
In the same way as we defined the antifascist revolution’s objectives, of the democratic and national revolution, we said its complete achievement “would create favorable conditions for the evolution of Portuguese society towards socialism,” we also say today, on proposing the program of “an advanced democracy at the threshold of the 21st century,” that we point out to “a socialist society as objective and perspective.”
This objective of changing the Portuguese society constitutes one of the essential features of the PCP’s identity.
Answering the question “What is being a communist today?” one ought to begin by saying that to be a communist is to hold as an objective to build a socialist society in Portugal and that, contrarily to the capitalist socio economic system, conceives and performs the inseparable four democracy features.
But our answer to the question “ what is being a communist today?” necessarily includes several other aspects concerning ideas, objectives, action, struggle, mentality, ethical concepts of the Portuguese communists.
To be a communist in a party, as the Portuguese Communist Party, that always was and is a working class and all workers party is to defend (always with the workers, always with the people) their just interests, rights and desires, their organization, unity and the development and success in their struggles. And not only that. To defend the interests of small and medium farmers, of intellectuals and professional technicians, of small and medium traders and industrials, of women, of youth, of the retired, of the handicapped, of all those who are hit and wounded by the policy at the service of great capital and constitute a wide social front of whose role in national life the future of the country depends.
And always be aware of all great inequalities, injustices and social discriminations and struggle and organize in order to correct and end them.
To be a communist, following up PCP’s action of over 72 years of existence, is to consequently struggle for freedoms and democracy (in social movements, in the Republic Assembly, in local authorities, in the European Parliament, in all areas of national life), to struggle with the popular masses, to struggle for the workers unity, for the confluence of the struggle of anti-monopolist classes and social strata, for the unity or confluence of democratic forces, to struggle for a democratic alternative. It is to defend an economic development which has social progress as an integrant element, namely the improvement living conditions of workers and people in general and not – as the current government policy does – of seeking economic growth at the price of the aggravation of our people’s living and working conditions.
To be a communist is to struggle for the friendship and cooperation of peoples, nations and states, for peace and security, to be a Portuguese patriot, defending national independence and sovereignty and the inalienable right of the Portuguese people to decide his own destiny and also be actively solidary towards workers and peoples worldwide in the struggle for their just rights and desires.
To be a communist, in the current conditions of Portugal, is to struggle not only in words but in acts against a right-wing government that does not serve the people nor the country, that ruins the Portuguese economy, that degrades the social situation, that perverts democracy and compromises national independence and sovereignty.
To be a communist, is to trust the people and the popular potentialities of understanding, determination, struggle and achievement. It is to keep a tight liaison with the people, delivering the Party’s knowledge, capacity and experience, and receiving from the people essential elements for a deep knowledge of problems, and also of opinions, and support, and stimulus, and participation that translate in powerful revolutionary energy capable of changing social life for the better. It is to be conscious that history always ends being decided by the peoples and that socialism can only be built and developed by the people’s decision and compromise and never against his option and will. It is to be confident that the struggle, the future for humanity will be better than the present.
To be a communist is to understand and practice politics not for self-profit but instead to serve the people and the country. With truth, conviction, serene firmness, a quiet conscience. Keeping in our mind and action alive basic elementary values as rights equality, generosity, fraternity, social justice, human solidarity.
Perhaps taking for granted that this end of the century is the “death of communism” there are some that say that if us, communists, stand firm and assured, it is to die standing up. The truth (as stated before ) is that, if we are like that, it is not to die standing up, but to carry on living and struggling standing up, trusting (on the basis of reality analysis) that our ideal corresponds in such a way to the deepest needs and desires of our people that someday the future will be his.