Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Portugal Forum Sparks Sharp Debate

First Published: The Call, Vol. 4, No. 4 January 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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As the two superpowers move closer to war with each other, the contradiction between the Marxist-Leninist analysis of the world and the revisionist view is growing sharper. And as Soviet social-imperialism grows more isolated and exposed, its true friends are popping out to defend it. These friends include not only the revisionist CPUSA in this country, but also numerous Trotskyist groups and “centrists” such as the Guardian newspaper.

This was the lesson of a forum held December 14 at Boston University on the topic of Portugal.

Speaking for the October League, Dan Burstein pointed out the world setting in which developments in Portugal are taking place. He said, “Strategically the two superpowers, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., are focused on Europe in their contention. Portugal is a case in point. Where two years ago it was firmly tied to U.S. imperialism through the fascist Caetano dictatorship, today both superpowers are furiously contending for control there.”

Commenting on the appeals of some of the other speakers to take an “anti-imperialist stand,” Burstein said: “It has been said here today that imperialist intervention in Portugal must be opposed. And this is quite true. But this opposition is empty and dangerous if it doesn’t hit both U.S. and Soviet imperialisms.”

The speech went on to detail the facts of superpower contention. After pointing to well-known examples concerning Kissinger’s threats against Portugal and a number of CIA plots, he cited somewhat less-known facts of Soviet intervention there. For example, the Soviet Union has over 600 KGB agents operating in its Lisbon embassy. It has demanded docking rights in Portuguese waters for its “fishing” fleet (which contains a number of espionage vessels) and its navy. It has negotiated unequal trade agreements, in order to buy Portuguese wine, cork, and shoes cheap while selling Soviet oil dear.

But the O.L. representative noted that the main instrument of Soviet penetration into Portugal is the revisionist Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), which he characterized as “socialist in word but fascist in deeds.” In defining this party as “social-fascist”-led, Burstein pointed out its role in attacking genuine Marxist-Leninists, beating them up, fingering them for arrest, and passing laws against their activities. These fascist acts, he said, are extended to attacks on the masses in general, such as opposing the right to strike.

Concluding his remarks, Burstein emphasized the need to oppose both superpowers and not be drawn into the web of either one. He supported the just slogans of the Portuguese people such as “Neither Kissinger nor Brezhnev,” “Neither Prague nor Chile,” and the demand for genuine national independence in solidarity with other countries struggling against the superpowers, especially Third World countries.

A revisionist spokesman for the CPUSA did little to defend the role of the PCP or the Soviet Union. He referred to the left movement in Portugal as a “fragmented movement” and claimed that, all the revolutionary groups should unite behind the PCP in order to oppose “the right.”

The Trotskyists on the stage put forward a very similar view. While saying a few words in opposition to revisionism, they leapt to its defense every time Burstein mentioned the word “social-imperialism” or the “two superpowers.”

The Socialist Workers Party called for a “united front of the workers,” which their spokesman said had to be led by the revisionists, since the PCP has the biggest base. The International Socialists for their part claimed that insurrection was the order of the day in Portugal and that the “PCP should play more of a role than it has up til now in the insurrectionary process.”


But perhaps the best support the revisionists received came from Patrick Smith, speaking for the Guardian newspaper. Smith stated first of all that he was opposed to revisionism and social-imperialism. But he then went on to liquidate any real opposition to these enemies by saying, “Social-imperialism has nothing to do with the principal contradiction in Portugal. Revisionism has nothing to do with the principal contradiction.”

Smith also accused the O.L. of “analyzing Portugal and the PCP in a vacuum.” But in fact it was he who made this error, trying to ignore the contention of the superpowers in Europe, the Soviet interference in Portugal, and the history of revisionism internationally.

The unity between the Trotskyists, CPUSA and Guardian was also reflected on the question of Angola. These forces all supported Soviet efforts to promote a civil war there on the ground that “U.S. imperialism is the main enemy.”

In the time allotted for summation, the O.L. speaker again called for unity against both superpowers, pointing out that this is the cornerstone of proletarian internationalism in this period. He warned against the danger of conciliation with social-imperialism, saying, “Those who cover over the danger of social-imperialism and revisionism in its most blatant and brutal forms internationally, are finding ever-greater unity with it here in the form of the rotten, revisionist CPUSA.”