Ernest Mandel

Woe to Revolutionists Who Make a Revolution Only Half Way

(May 1974)

From Intercontinental Press, 17 June 1974, pp. 798–794.
Transcribed by Joe Auciello.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The following is the text of the speech given to a united-front meeting in Lisbon May 19 by Ernest Mandel. An article describing this meeting appears elsewhere in this issue. The translation is by Intercontinental Press.


First of all, I would like to apologize for my inability to speak your beautiful language and for the fact that I will have to speak in Spanish, which I speak very badly. But I hope you will be able to understand some of the things I am going to say in Spanish.

It is a great joy for revolutionists of my generation, after seeing the fall of Hitler and Mussolini, to be able to speak in a Lisbon liberated from fascism. This is one more confirmation that the history of this century is not going in the direction of fascist barbarism but in the direction of socialism and communism. It is a warning to the hangmen of the Chilean and Brazilian military that they will suffer the same fate as the Gestapo and the fate the PIDE [Portuguese political police] must suffer today.

It is no accident that the liberation struggles of the peoples of Mozambique, Angola, and the Guinea-Bissau contributed decisively to the fall of fascism here. For twenty years the center of gravity of the world revolution shifted from the Western countries to the countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Throughout this period when imperialism was relatively stable in Europe and North America, the struggles of these peoples helped crystallize a new revolutionary vanguard in the advanced capitalist countries, a vanguard capable of resuming the struggle for socialist revolution in the West.

For this reason, certainly, as well as for historical reasons, the unity of interest, the need for international solidarity among the workers, among the exploited, it is an unavoidable duty for the workers and the revolutionary youth in Western Europe to support unconditionally the struggle of the peoples in the colonies, to support this struggle until they win unconditional, immediate, and full independence, and to fight today to stop another cent, another soldier, another ship from being sent to support the colonial war. To fight for the release of all the prisoners in Africa, for the immediate withdrawal of the Portuguese troops from Africa, and for the immediate and unconditional independence of Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique.

The new upsurge of workers’ struggles in Western Europe that began in May 1968 has today widened the international revolutionary struggle. This fight is no longer limited to the countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The upsurge of workers’ struggles in the countries of Western Europe puts the socialist revolution on the agenda once again in these countries.

Not only have we seen enormous strikes involving millions of workers: 10 million strikers in France, 15 million strikers in Italy, 5 million strikers in Great Britain. We have seen factory occupations. And not only has the European working class refused to pay the price of the structural crisis of capitalism, the cost of inflation and unemployment, but the workers have raised more radical demands signifying that they no longer accept the authority of management in the factories, the authority of the bourgeoisie over the economy, and the authority of the bourgeois state over society.

The British miners demonstrated this during the winter by refusing to submit to the laws of the Conservative government, refusing to accept the wage freeze, and creating a situation in the country that in fact forced the Tory government out of office.

This, along with the fact that broader and broader struggles are developing for workers’ control and that many workers are looking for general political solutions, indicates that a prerevolutionary situation is ripening on some countries on this continent. But still more important than the more radical demands being raised are the more radical forms of organization that are being adopted now in many cases by workers in Western Europe. More and more strikes are being led democratically by strike committees elected in general assemblies, strike committees that are beginning to establish coordination among themselves on the local level, on the regional level, and in some instances, already on the national level.

These facts announce a more fundamental turn in Western Europe; they prefigure the rediscovery by the West European workers of the real meaning of socialism. The European socialism of tomorrow will be based on the rule of workers’ councils, on the administration of the factories and enterprises by workers’ councils, which will be democratically elected and will meet in national and international assemblies, planning their own economy and demonstrating that if the working class is capable of producing all material wealth, it is certainly capable of administering the wealth it produces.

What has been happening in Portugal since April 25 fits perfectly into the general framework of the impetuous rise of workers’ struggles throughout capitalist Europe. The Portuguese bourgeoisie, in crisis because of its colonial war, the crisis of its system of political rule, in crisis because of the need the reorient its investments and its finances, sought a tactical solution. The impetuous irruption of the masses into the political scene forced the bourgeoisie to change its plans, to base itself on the reformist formations, on the Socialist party and on the Communist party, in order to try to hold back the mass upsurge and channel it toward class-collaborationist aims, toward national construction.

But events every day show that it is impossible to find a common interest between the workers and the capitalists, to find a common interest between the poor and the rich, between the exploited and the exploiters. The working class must win and defend its full organizational and political class independence. It must rely only on its own organized struggle and place no confidence in the Provisional Government, which is not its government but a government of class collaboration.

The tragic example of Chile shows that democratic freedoms cannot be defended, that a return to fascism cannot be prevented, by collaborating with the bourgeoisie. We must remember the classic words of the great French revolutionist Saint-Just. “Woe to revolutionists who make a revolution only half way. They only dig their own graves.” Listen, compañero leaders of the Socialist and Communist parties. “Woe to revolutionists who make a revolution only half way. They only dig their own graves.”

Beware of those who talk about democratic freedoms only when they argue that elections must be postponed. Just as it was in 1944 in France and Italy, it is necessary to demand the immediate abolition of the fascist penal code and the recognition of the unconditional right to strike, to demand the abolition of all the institutions of the fascist period and their replacement by organs elected by the masses. If you wait three or four years, the danger is that there may be no more Communist or Socialist ministers in the government but that the fascist penal code will remain, as was the case in Italy. The mobilizations of the masses and the strikes of the workers must be extended and generalized to win the immediate demands of the working class.

But the unconditional and intransigent defense of the interests of the working class does not contradict in any way achieving the broadest possible united front of all the oppressed, and we must defend the unity in action of the industrial workers and workers on the land, of white-collar workers, of soldiers, sailors, of oppressed women, of rebel youth; all this great mass is the decisive force that can open the way for the only solution to the historic crisis of Portuguese capitalism, the road of the socialist revolution, the creation of a socialist Portugal in the framework of a socialist united states of Iberia and a socialist united states of Europe.

The Fourth International and its Portuguese organization, the Liga Comunista Internacionalista, are in favor of closer, more intimate unity in action of all revolutionists who oppose in day-to-day struggles the line of the reformists, the line of class collaboration, the line of maintaining the capitalist system and the bourgeois state, and who do so in the name of struggle for the socialist revolution, the struggle for power to the workers and masses of toilers. In this unity in action, the compañeros of the Fourth International, the compañeros of the Liga Comunista, will defend their whole program, the whole program of revolutionary Marxism, which extends from democratic slogans and immediate demands of the masses, such as the 6,000 escuedo minimum wage, the forty-hour week and four weeks of vacation at full pay, to the principal transitional demands such as the sliding scale of wages, workers’ control over production, the demand that the parties that claim to represent the working class break from their coalition with the bourgeoisie and struggle for a workers’ government.

In these struggles a great effort must be made to give impetus to the creation of organs of self-organization of the working masses. In this context will spring up tomorrow the workers’ councils, the nuclei of a real workers’ government.

We are not yet in a socialist revolution. We still have to prepare the way for such a revolution; we still have to take into account that after decades and decades of a fascist regime, the masses have reformist illusions. They still have partial confidence in the reformist parties. They still have to complete their experience with this. In all their tactics, revolutionists must combine unity in action of the working class with calling for no confidence in any class-collaborationist experiment.

If we act in this intelligent and tactically astute way, if we act in such a way that we can convince ever broader layers of the working class of the correctness of the revolutionary line as opposed to the reformist line, we will be able in the months and years ahead to advance toward a socialist revolution, toward the victory of the socialist revolution in Portugal and in Europe.

Workers of All Countries Unite!
Workers of All Countries Unite!
Workers of All Countries Unite!

Last updated on 26.12.2011