The Portuguese workers revolution, with the tremendous impulse given to it by the rank-and-file movement of the workers and the masses, nonetheless displays tragic weaknesses as far as organization and political leadership are concerned. First is the fragmentation and weakness of the dual power. The rank-and-file soldiers, tenants, and workers commissions, the factory occupations, the soldiers assemblies, still fully retain their spontaneous, molecular, and decentralized character. Soviets do not exist in Portugal, nor any other central organ of workers power that—while not necessarily duplicating the structure of the Russian soviets—could draw together the existing organs of dual power. This situation, which had its positive aspect insofar as it converted the rank-and-file commissions into bodies escaping the control of the reformist parties precisely because they were not integrated into a centralized organization, is now showing its negative side more and more. The more urgent the taking of power by the proletariat becomes, the more striking is the absence of an institution of the movement of the workers and the masses that is able to organize it, that is widely recognized, and that is capable of exercising governmental power.
It is very dangerous to delude ourselves about this, the February demonstration of the workers commissions was far less numerous than that of the Intersindical. This demonstrates the present weakness of the dual power. They are powerful seeds and nothing more. They are far from being the revolutionary organization of the Portuguese masses. At the moment it is the organization of only the most advanced layers. This character is aggravated because of the confusion within the workers movement and because of the criminal policies of the ultraleft.
The second basic weakness, which is at the same time a cause and a product of the first one, is the division among the workers parties. The confrontation between the bureaucratic, petty-bourgeois leaderships of the two big reformist parties, to which the role of the no less petty-bourgeois ultraleft Maoist groups as a third figure in the dispute must be added, has blocked the development of revolutionary united-front organisms of the workers movement. Each one of these three currents tries to gain ground in the sector where it sees the best possibilities of increasing its influence: the Socialists in the parliamentary arena, the Stalinists in the trade unions, and the Maoists in the workers commissions. And each one fights in every possible way against those bodies where it is weak. Thus, Socialists and Maoists attack the Intersindical, the Stalinists attack the Constituent Assembly, and the Socialists and Stalinists attack the workers commissions, the strikes, and the factory occupations.
In relation to the germs of dual power and the workers commissions and the soldiers committees, the Maoists and ultralefts have followed a deadly line. They are repeating the no less deadly line of Spanish anarcho-syndicalism, but without its generosity, influence, and positive aspects. The ultraleft line of these sects—unfortunately influential in the rank-and-file bodies—is transforming these into just another tendency, sectarian and ultraleftist, in the workers movement and not into what they should be, the organization of the masses par excellence. Thus, they use the organisms they control to support their sectarian and ultraleft political line, without taking into account the needs of the mass movement. By acting in this way, they isolate these organisms from the political life of the country, when they should be its axis. They thus make it possible for the government to turn them into “useful idiots,” its best propaganda tool to deceive and divide the masses. The sectors influenced by the ultraleft make speeches in favor of the socialist revolution, forgetting a small detail: against whom to make this socialist revolution. The most confusion concerns the “whom” . For some it is the right wing of the MFA. For others it is imperialism. For others further out it is the capitalist enterprises, and thus they pose workers control. All of them forget to consistently point out that the main enemy, against whom the revolution is going to be carried out, is the government of the MFA, and that any workers or popular current that goes against the government of the MFA is relatively progressive and we have to try to incorporate it, thus unifying and broadening the orbit of the rank-and-file organisms. But to do this they must be organizers of the masses against the MFA government.
There are thus no working-class organisms—nor a parliamentary workers fraction, nor soviets, nor trade unions—constituting real organisms of a revolutionary united front of the workers. The division of the ranks of the workers movement, for which the petty-bourgeois leaderships are responsible, is, then, the second weakness of the Portuguese revolution.
The third one is the absence of a revolutionary Marxist party with mass influence. Its absence prevents the masses from drawing the lessons of their experience with their reformist leaderships and the government. There is no one to denounce the counterrevolutionary maneuvers of the MFA government; no one to explain the need to take power; and no one to defend at the same time the rank-and-file commissions and to fight for their centralization; no one to defend the Intersindical and to fight for its democratization, no one to defend the Constituent Assembly and democratic rights and to fight for the full sovereignty of the former and the extension of the latter; no one to defend the occupations and pose the need for workers control. Trotskyism exists, but it is still not listened to by broad sectors of the masses nor begun to be seen as an alternative leadership.
These three fundamental weaknesses combine to hold back a process
whose objective conditions are more than ripe enough for it to result
in what would be its logical and necessary conclusion: the taking of
power by the working class. And they are now facilitating the
Bonapartist maneuvers of the MFA-CP to use some sectors of the masses
against others so as to consolidate its position as arbiter and to
strengthen its government.
A primary arena in which the counterrevolution has launched its counterattack is that of trade-union organization and the right to strike. Thus it has tried to control, from the word go, the first organisms born in the upsurge: the industrial unions and Intersindical. Thus, on April 30, the government announced that according to the “forthcoming trade-union law, there will be no elections in the trade unions whose leaderships were elected after April 25, 1974.” The industrial trade unions were thus left under the control of the counterrevolutionary Stalinists, sweeping aside any possible attempt to democratize and transform them into revolutionary unions. This included banning even the Socialists and Maoists from running for union posts. At the same time, an antistrike law was aimed at liquidating the enormous gain for the workers movement represented by restoration of the right to strike after fifty years of illegality. Stalinism, grateful for the government’s gift of perpetual leadership of the Intersindical, agreed to join with it in declaring that the Portuguese workers’ greatest task was the “battle for production.” The MFA and CP sought unitedly in this way to achieve solid economic support for capitalist Portugal by resorting to greater exploitation of the workers. A part of this plan was a campaign for “austerity.” Together they constitute the basis for a thousand percent bourgeois plan, against which the working class is not raising its own economic plan. The objective is to strengthen the weak Portuguese imperialism against the European Common Market. “Although the economic plans advanced by the PSP and the PPD” —this is, according to the previously quoted Le Monde Diplomatique, the opinion of high government officials—“can possibly increase expansion with the massive aid of foreign capital, they would correspond to a model of consumption that would not be acceptable to a Portugal desirous of reducing social inequality.” Even though it is true that after March 11 the anti-strike law and the “battle for production” have not led to much, they hang over the head of the workers like a sword of Damocles.
Another gain the counterrevolution would like to liquidate is the elements of dual power that have developed within the army. But here, the MFA acts without intermediaries. At its April 7 assembly, it issued a public announcement that clearly indicates its objectives: “to reinforce the revolutionary will and discipline,” that is, to eliminate all the elements of control by the soldiers and lower-ranking officers over the higher officers. Although, along with the battle for production, a top priority objective is to neutralize the soldiers and sailors committees, the MFA is acting in this area with great tactfulness and caution.
Its aim is to control and eliminate the soldiers commit tees, that is, wrench them away from the direct control of the ranks, in order to reinstate discipline. To achieve this, it has resorted to the demagogic maneuver of incorporating some noncommissioned officers and soldiers into the MFA’s assembly, obviously as a minority. Another maneuver has been to stimulate the formation of commit tees under the discipline of the higher officers. In this area it is in the full stage of making concessions. After all, it is very difficult to repress an armed people.
But it is precisely in the area of production relations, in what has occurred with the factory occupations and the workers commissions, that the new counterrevolutionary policy stands out most clearly, since it is here that the most important advances of the present revolutionary process in Portugal have been made. The MFA and Stalinism are transforming—or trying to transform—the occupations and workers commissions of a profoundly anticapitalist and revolutionary nature into their procapitalist and counterrevolutionary opposite by nationalizing businesses and naming administrators of the bourgeois state to manage them. The workers movement in its upsurge carried out de facto expropriations of the businesses they occupied, and it administered them through the workers commissions; the MFA-CP, accepting the progressive fact of expropriating the affected sector of the bourgeoisie, in turn expropriated the workers, taking away from them what was already in their hands, and imposing their bourgeois administrators.
The first aspect of the plan began with the nationalizations. On March 14, the banks occupied by their workers were nationalized; the 15th, the insurance companies; on April 15, steel, electricity, petrochemical, oil, and transportation were nationalized; and on May 7, the announcement was made of a plan to take over the pharmaceutical industry. The fact that the greater part of the nationalized industries had already been occupied by the workers reveals the maneuver of the government of the MFA; namely, accepting the accomplished fact that the bosses were no longer owners of the occupied businesses, prying them out of direct control by the workers, and handing them over to the bourgeois state. In any case, the nationalizations have been an indirect recognition of the working-class character of the present revolution, since they point toward a workers state expropriating the capitalist class. But, by themselves, they do not in the least way have a socialist character. It is a bourgeois state and not a workers state that controls the nationalized industries. At the most, they lead to state capitalism, or an approximation of it.
At the same time that it expropriated the occupied businesses from the workers, the government also expropriated from the workers commissions the control they exercised over the businesses (a task facilitated by the fact that the workers commissions were not centralized and were influenced by Maoism and its populist ideology). Le Monde Diplomatique describes in the following way the proceedings of the MFA and evaluates its possible objectives:
When the popular initiative or action of the workers unleashes conflicts with the bosses, the MFA places a commission, composed of technocrats it selects and delegates of the workers, in charge of restructuring the functioning of the industry. In cases where the business has been abandoned by the boss or in cases of bad management, the workers take production into their hands or demand its nationalization ... Only the future will reveal if this dual power, which allows the MFA at present to base its actions on a new ‘aparty’ force, in face of the electoralist strategy of the parties on the left, will be channeled or neutralized to the exclusive advantage of the MFA, that is, of a new state.
These functionaries of the MFA, occupying posts as managers and working in direct contact with inexperienced working-class leaders, Maoists and ultralefts, facilitate the maneuver of actually incorporating them, owing to the lack of a clear class perspective of power, into the apparatus of the nationalized industries of the bourgeois power.
Along with this sector-by-sector procedure of expropriating the workers movement, the occupied industries, and the workers commissions, the counterrevolution is planning a broader, more far-ranging maneuver. Since the beginning of the year, the MFA and the bourgeoisie have warned that the dual power is becoming generalized, and that they are faced with a grave problem. The working-class parties continued to be useful to them in castrating the movement of the workers and the masses, but they were no longer sufficient. The Socialist Party was of service if there were elections and parliaments; Stalinism was of service in the terrain of the unions, but not so much in the rank-and-file committees. What was to be done? It was then that a high-level demagogic maneuver was begun, for which the “useful idiots” of the ultraleft, especially the Maoists, were employed. We have already noted that low-ranking officers and soldiers in a minority in relation to the MFA were incorporated into the armed forces; the formation of committees under discipline to the officer corps was authorized, as a pacifying concession. (And here is the ingenious touch of the Portuguese bourgeoisie and the role played by the ultraleft in the movement of the workers and the masses.) What was necessary was to form and institutionalize “Popular Assemblies” controlled by the MFA-CP. The objective of these Popular Assemblies was to bring the workers, tenants, and soldiers’ under their discipline, and through them, to the MFA-CP, which could thus control them much more easily. Thus is repeated the Spanish experience in which committees of “juntas” were set up by the parties in order to control the genuine committees.
It is for this reason that one begins to hear phrases with a “soviet” ring. People are beginning to talk of bypassing the workers parties, accepting the accomplished fact that the committees have already bypassed them and their politics. They talk of legalizing and institutionalizing the workers committees and incorporating them into the government by way of the Popular Assemblies in which they would be integrated. There is talk of “direct democracy.” The counterrevolutionary petty bourgeois of the MFA and CP do not become too irritated when the world press begins to mention the word “soviets,” or “new state.”
This is not the first time the bourgeoisie has tried the tactic of institutionalizing the organs of workers power. In a German state after the war, soviets were included in the constitution. If the Assemblies maneuver were successful, the committees would become transformed into organs of workers power within the institutions of bourgeois power. But, like any maneuver based on demagogy, on concessions, it can prove to be very dangerous for the bourgeoisie in a revolutionary situation like the one through which Portugal is passing: If it encourages the process of forming rank-and-file committees, it could precipitate a wider extension and centralization of them. Let us not forget that the first soviet emerged in 1905 out of negotiations initiated by the tsar of all the Russians.
Furthermore, there is another Bonapartist objective: to gain a certain amount of support from the masses for the attack on democratic rights and on the Socialist Party, which won a wide majority in the elections.
It can carry out this audacious maneuver without running major
risks, owing to the atomization of the mass movement into various
workers parties, an infinite number of commissions of workers, tenants,
and soldiers commit tees, enabling it to carry out maneuvers by pitting
some against the others.
3. The Attack on the Democratic Gains
Another important terrain in which the counterrevolution is launching a counterattack through the Bonapartist MFA-CP bloc is the great democratic gains achieved by the movement of the workers and the masses since April 25. As a sample, let it suffice to mention the control of the mass media by the CP apparatus and the creation of COPCON (Mainland Portugal Operations Command) to replace in repressive work the practically destroyed Salazarist political police.
This attack on democratic rights has reached its major expression in the subjugation of the biggest democratic conquest of the masses: the Constituent Assembly. That was the purpose of the famous “Pact” the MFA forced the political parties to agree to. Signed on April 13, it consists of a commitment by the parties to leave the government in the hands of the MFA and the Council of the Revolution for five years, pledging not to challenge the military’s rule during that period. Its objective is to achieve a stable government, without any bourgeois-democratic guarantee to the movement of the workers and the masses; it is a bourgeois insurance policy against any possibility of the parliamentary regime being used by the proletariat. In an immediate sense it is a concession to the CP for services rendered and in view of its electoral weakness. This was the ingenious formula found by the MFA-CP counterrevolutionaries to expropriate the biggest democratic conquest of the mass movement.
But even though they were held within that framework, the results of the elections were, nevertheless, highly significant. First, the fact that about half the electorate voted for the workers parties indicated the deepness and magnitude of the upsurge Portugal is going through. Second, the tremendous influence of the SP on the population in general and on the working class became strikingly clear, since it won by a wide margin in the proletarian neighborhoods. Paradoxically, it revealed its lack of organizational structure among the workers, since that influence has not been reflected in the trade unions and rank-and-file commissions. Thirdly, the election showed the loss of prestige the CP has suffered because of its policy of close collaboration with the government and abandonment of principles. Finally, it demonstrated the profound antitotalitarian consciousness of the Portuguese workers, who voted for the party that more than any other formally defends public freedoms and rejected the one that attacks them in complicity with the MFA, while at the same time paying no attention to the call for a blank vote spread in an underhanded way by the MFA. Evidently, with a good class instinct, the workers and sectors of the middle class feel a healthy fear of totalitarian methods and want to expand democratic rights.
A third area in which democratic rights have come under attack directly involves the workers movement. The Bonapartist MFA-CP bloc has gone so far as to stop the SP from expressing itself through Repùblica. Their measures are antidemocratic to the core, since they are not dealing with a fascist party, but the majority working-class party. The outlawing of the Maoists is also part of these attacks against workers democracy.
The struggle for democratic rights is a new field of battle between the revolution and the counterrevolution, which opened after March 11. The measures already taken will be followed by others, inasmuch as the counterrevolutionary course followed by the MFA-CP will continue its inexorable march as long as the movement of the workers and the masses does not defeat it.
In the empire, the MFA-CP continues the military occupation of
Angola, in a neocolonial maneuver to use the clashes between the
guerrilla movements in order to maintain its domination of the former
colony. This is the other face of the domestic antidemocratic policy.
Two of the maneuvers carried out by the MFA-CP to divert attention from their counterrevolutionary plan have had an impact on some sectors of the left, including members of our own movement. The first one is their attempt to cover up their counterrevolutionary offensive against the workers, the colonial movement, the soldiers, the SP, and the Maoists by denouncing the counterrevolutionary aspects of the SP. In this way, they can better attack the highly positive democratic tendency of the workers who voted for socialism, and thus divide the masses over false issues.
The second one is their attempt to make it appear that by organizing “Popular Assemblies,” they favor the development of a sort of “proletarian or people’s dictatorship,” a direct government of the workers.
The historically counterrevolutionary character of the PSP should not he permitted to hinder us from perceiving the present reality, as has occurred with many comrades. Echoing the counterrevolutionary demagogy of the MFA, which—correctly—accuses the SP of being in the service of imperialism, of being against the direct democracy of the workers and soldiers movement, and of having formed a bloc with the PPD, many currents claiming adherence to Trotskyism, as well as many other working-class currents, consider the proimperialist reformist ideology and policies of the SP and its bloc with the PPD to be the main present danger facing the workers movement. Many do not say it as clearly as that, but when they concentrate on attacking the SP more than the CP, their point of departure is the same erroneous conception. We recognize that the SP, along with the Catholics and the PPD, helps just as much or even more than the demagogy of the MFA to provoke this confusion.
To begin with, it is necessary to emphasize that the MFA-CP is as much in favor of imperialism and in opposition to direct democracy as the SP is. The only difference lies in the methods and demagogy they use to hide their real objectives.
It is precisely the methods they use to achieve the same counterrevolutionary objectives that make the MFA-CP the main and most immediate enemy of the workers and colonial movement, relegating the SP to a secondary level. And this is so because the MFA-CP’s plan is Bonapartist, for the complete suppression of the workers democratic rights. The SP holds a contrary position: defense of bourgeois democracy and democratic rights against the MFA-CP and against the organs of power of the workers revolution.
The latter is a fundamental issue. At this moment the SP and its line of defense of democratic rights and the parliament coincide, in a limited way, with the needs of the movement of workers and the masses, and help in resisting the Bonapartist plan of the MFA-CP. We stress its “limited” character, since the most urgent need is development of the organs of workers power, the workers revolution, and not defense of bourgeois democracy. But defense of the Socialist Party’s rights is not only defense of bourgeois, but also workers, democracy. And against the Bonapartist aims of the MFA-CP, even the defense of bourgeois democracy is progressive. We do not see any contradiction between defending democratic rights and the rights of the SP and developing the organs of workers power; on the contrary, it is a necessary, explosive, revolutionary combination. This is so because without winning over the Socialist workers and neutralizing or winning over the urban and rural middle class that votes for the SP, there can be no revolution in Portugal, which is based on the workers commissions and soldiers commit tees. Abandonment of the bourgeois-democratic program, refusal to defend the daily Repùblica, have the same significance as if the Bolsheviks had not defended the Constituent Assembly throughout 1917, which would have resulted in the soviets not being able to take power.
This discussion on who is playing the most reactionary role at present in Portugal has been obscured by the formation of “Popular Assemblies” by the MFA. Many think, perhaps correctly, that they constitute the beginning of a soviet organization. From a distance, it seems to us a hasty conclusion. Even assuming the best variant:
that these Popular Assemblies transform themselves into soviets, this would not change our analysis in the least. The tsarist police and the tsar did not lose their counterrevolutionary character for having favored, at the beginning, the first soviet as a maneuver that they supposed would weaken the underground revolutionary movement. Nor did French imperialism change its nature when it promoted in Algeria the formation of Arab community organizations that it thought it would be able to counterpose to the nationalist guerrillas. But, in both Russia and Algeria, the revolutionists turned the counter revolutionary maneuver upside down. Basing themselves on the fact that the entrance of the masses into these organizational forms gave them a revolutionary content, the revolutionists went with the masses, and, deepening the revolutionary aspect, turned the maneuver into a “boomerang” against the counterrevolutionary governments.
It is because of all these circumstances that we say the greatest present danger to the Portuguese revolution is the MFA government with its Bonapartist plan. Unfortunately, we have not heard other comrades give this indispensable definition.
Livio Maitan tells us—in The MFA or Revolutionary Workers Democracy?—of “inevitable coup attempts.” This is ambiguous. What is the meaning of “inevitable coup attempts” ? A Spínola-type coup, or a “Catalonian May” by the MFA-CP? Who is in position to carry out a “putsch” today in Portugal? Comrade Maitan should state more precisely the real, concrete, immediate danger now facing the Portuguese workers.
Horowitz, for his part, denounces the MFA-CP. He tells us, however, that the CP’s biggest sin is to disarm the masses in the face of reaction, and he compares the Portuguese situation to that of Chile before Pinochet. We think this is an error. The Portuguese Pinochet, Spínola, has already been defeated. He does not have enough strength at the moment to attempt another coup. And the CP’s major sin is not disarming the masses in face of the danger—nonexistent at the moment—of a coup d’état by the Portuguese bourgeoisie, but of serving as the direct executor, along with the MFA, of a counterrevolutionary Bonapartist plan. The immediate danger for the working class is not a Spínola-Pinochet coup, which would drown in blood the workers and the CP itself, but the Bonapartist offensive mounted by the MFA-CP, who, in common agreement, will try sooner or later to repress the workers.
Let us recall the historical example we used before: The MFA is passing from the demagogic stage of the Largo Caballero period to the Negrin-Stalin stage, although it is combining the two.
Never before has it been shown how indispensable a correct theoretical analysis is to enable a correct political course to be laid out. Only on the bases of a precise characterization of the current Portuguese regime can a revolutionary Marxist political line for Portugal be reached.
Those impressed by the demagogy of the MFA-CP and the formation of Popular Assemblies, who hold that the main enemy is the Socialist Party and who are silent about the role of the MFA-CP, could defend their position only if they characterized the current Portuguese government as a “left,” “sui generis” Bonapartist government of a semicolonial country, or as a workers and peasants government, or, simply, as a bourgeois-democratic or Bonapartist government facing a major danger: fascism. In that case, the SP would have turned into the organization of the ultrareactionary and desperate petty bourgeoisie, which, spurred by finance capital, had opened a civil war against the democratic, popular, workers movement. If this were so, we would be witnessing a genuine sociopolitical miracle requiring revision of the theoretical heritage of Leninism-Trotskyism, since, for the first time in history, the Stalinist fable of “social fascism” would have become a reality.
The position of defending only bourgeois or proletarian democracy held by some comrades is based, consciously or unconsciously, on other theoretical premises; namely, that the present regime is plain Bonapartism, that we are therefore not facing a workers revolution with important embryos of dual power in the factories and barracks, that the workers movement is in a downturn, and that the only possible line because of this is a policy of defending bourgeois-democratic rights against the Bonapartist offensive of the present government.
Finally, a completely different course arises from the definition of
the government as Kerenskyist, which we hold: developing the ongoing
workers revolution to the point of taking power, defeating the
counterrevolutionary MFA-CP government that wants us to concede to the
establishment of a Bonapartist regime; and, to that end, developing and
centralizing all the seeds of dual power, defending and developing all
the gains of the masses, including bourgeois and proletarian democratic
rights, thus winning over all the workers to the side of the organs of
power of the working class.
We have already seen that the Portuguese masses face three dangers: the MFA-CP’s counterrevolutionary Bonapartist plan; the parliamentarist bourgeois-democratic plan of the SP and its allies among the Portuguese imperialist bourgeoisie; the economic strangulation caused by imperialist sabotage. Of these three, the most immediate danger is the MFA-CP’s antidemocratic, Bonapartist plan, since they are the ones in government and there is no immediate danger of either a new Bonapartist coup d’état or the emergence of a mass fascist movement.
This aspect of the present situation should not prevent us from seeing things as a whole, which is characterized by a Kerenskyist regime with powerful seeds of dual power, which unfortunately have mobilized only a minority of the masses. The existence of this regime, as we have already pointed out, means that the situation is ripe or ripening either for the proletarian revolution or for turning back, toward a counterrevolutionary regime, whether parliamentary or Bonapartist (with time it could even be fascist).
In the current situation two poles are counterposed: the MFA-CP’s Bonapartist counterrevolution against the seeds of dual power and any other expression of the mass movement that is relatively independent of the government: non-Stalinist trade unions, the Socialist and Maoist parties, etc. There are comrades who, very schematically, take into account only one of the elements of the reality:
Some see only the offensive of the MFA-CP Bonapartist bloc; others ignore the counterrevolutionary character of the government and its role as the main enemy of the revolution, and take only dual power into consideration, forgetting about the other sectors of the mass movement, the majority Socialist Party, the Angolan masses, the workers and soldiers who have not joined the committees and who constitute a broad majority. In this way, opposing lines, all of them unilateral, have appeared in our movement.
Some comrades have outlined a correct, but partial, insufficient, position; defense of bourgeois and proletarian democratic rights and of the colonial revolution, both under attack by the reactionary MFA-CP. Thus they offer basically only a minimum democratic program and a call for the withdrawal of troops from Angola in the current stage of the Portuguese revolution, without linking these defensive democratic tasks to the seeds of dual power: the workers commissions and the soldiers committees. It would seem that the Portuguese government is bourgeois-democratic or Bonapartist in a normal bourgeois situation and has begun to attack democratic and workers rights in a typical reactionary Bonapartist course. The socialist character of the revolution is in fact denied, reducing it to its democratic aspects.
This mistake of isolating the defense of democratic rights and the colonial revolution from the seeds of dual power and from the other serious problems facing the Portuguese masses has its opposite in the position adopted by other comrades. For Livio Maitan, the central axis of a revolutionary strategy lies in “establishing and spreading” the “organs of proletarian democracy” to fight the “inevitable coup attempts” and “the maneuvers of local and international capitalism.” “At the same time, the revolutionists must fight for the achievement of all the democratic demands raised by the broad masses” which “means” the struggle for union democracy. (The MFA or Revolutionary Workers Democracy?, op. cit., p.760.)
As we can see, for Maitan the “organs of proletarian democracy” have a relatively remote and profoundly pessimistic, defensive, purpose: to fight the “inevitable coup attempt.” Nevertheless, there is one way to prevent the “coup” or, if it is attempted, to defeat it immediately: the taking of power by the “organs of proletarian democracy.” Why doesn’t he say it? Why doesn’t he point out that these organs are destined to take power, or in the opposite case, destined to disappear, since they are incompatible with the existence of a capitalist regime? Why doesn’t he define them as organizations for the revolutionary offensive, which, even though they can tactically carry out defensive tasks, do not lose because of that their character of organizations for advancing the socialist revolution?
But there are other immediate, very urgent problems confronting the masses that Comrade Maitan’s strategy does not consider, mainly the MFA’s counterrevolutionary, antidemocratic plan. Must the “organs” fight it or not? It is not a matter, as Maitan says, of not “reinforcing the authority and organs of the MFA,” as if what was involved was competition between mass organizations. Something more concrete and decisive is involved: to confront and smash the “authority and organs of the MFA” with the “organs of proletarian democracy,” to combat and denounce its plans, and to prepare through struggle and propaganda for the inevitable physical confrontation with the government. Furthermore, the economic crisis and unemployment are deepening day by day and are the most acute problem facing the masses. Do not the “organs of proletarian democracy” have any tasks related to this? The Portuguese imperialist army remains in Angola to be used in the MFA’s colonialist maneuvers. Don’t we have any proposals to make to the “organs” in relation to this? Rights are suppressed, the SP and the Maoists are persecuted. Don’t we demand that the workers commissions defend them?
Many comrades fall into the same error as Maitan: They make general statements in favor of the organs of dual power without relating them to the imperious needs confronting the masses, without forming them around a program that considers and offers a solution to all the tasks of the mass movement, the most urgent and immediate of them all at this stage being the socialist revolution, the taking of power by these organs, the systematic denunciation of the MFA government and confronting it until an insurrection against it is won.
The “organs of proletarian democracy” are the most democratic form of organization of the working class. Like any other organizational form they are precisely that, a form; they need a content, they need to know what their purpose is, what problems facing the workers they must solve. Without a transitional program that offers solutions to the most urgent problems facing the working class and the people, without posing that the central task of this organizational form is to carry out a socialist revolution against the MFA-CP government, the “organs of proletarian democracy” become an empty form that can be filled with a reactionary content-temporary organs of the bourgeois state or of the unions—and that can then disappear with the direct victory of capitalist reaction. This is what can occur in Portugal today through the attempts of the ultraleft to transform the committees into organs of their political current, and letting the government maneuver with them.
Finally, can’t we be more precise, more concrete, about the famous “organs” ? Do they still exist or don’t they? If they do not exist, we must state what has to be built. If they exist, we must call them by their name. Are not the workers commissions and soldiers committees precisely what we believe them to be? Is that what the MFA’s Popular Assemblies are? They are not, but can they become that? We must speak clearly, the revolutionary situation demands it more than ever.
We say this because of the lack of precision and clarity on the character, strength, and dynamics of these organs. Maitan tells us we must spread them. Do they control only a minimal layer of the mass movement, as we have said? If that is so, we are faced with a life-or-death question in spreading these organs: We must attract to them the mass movement, principally the majority of the movement of the workers and the people who voted for the Socialists, as well as the peasants who voted for the bourgeois parties, and the Stalinist workers. How to win them? By getting these organs to take the lead in the defense of all these sectors against the MFA government’s reactionary offensive, transforming these “organs” into united organizations for the revolutionary mobilization against the government. If we do not give this character to these organs, there is no way to spread them, and what is worse, they can be utilized as tools in the MFA’s Bonapartist plan. By not denouncing the MFA as the main enemy of the workers at present, this maneuver is facilitated.
This should be the axis of our determined, audacious intervention in any emerging organization that can possibly become an organ of workers power. While the MFA’s agents will enter these organizations, along with their “useful idiots” of the ultraleft, to pose divisionist, administrative questions or to attack the Social Democracy as counterrevolutionary and “an agency of imperialism,” we must enter them to denounce the government and defend the masses from its attacks. The agenda of the meetings of the “organs” of the rank and file should list only one point, with many subpoints: how to defend the Angolan people, the SP, the Maoists, the working class, the soldiers, the peasants, from the government’s counter revolutionary attack. We must not permit them to divert us from this single—although multifaceted—objective of denouncing the government, of politically preparing the masses—by means of propaganda—for the inevitable physical, insurrectional confrontation with it. If we do not succeed in spreading the “organs” until they honeycomb the masses as organizations of dual power for a frontal struggle against the counterrevolutionary MFA government, up to defeating it, they will become not organs of power, but another ingenious maneuver by the bourgeoisie, which succeeded in deluding many elements in the ranks of the ultraleft. Again, only a transitional program that unites all sectors of the mass movement—beginning with the Socialist workers, who are the most numerous—can the organs of power be spread, whether they are the workers and soldiers commissions, or popular assemblies. And until we succeed in stopping these committees or embryos of dual power from being maneuvered by the ultraleft and utilized by the MFA, we will not succeed in elevating them into an organization for the revolutionary mobilization of the masses. Today, unfortunately, those organs are controlled by the ultraleft. That is why our movement cannot wait even a minute for these committees to change their policies or for their ultraleft leadership to begin to act. We must struggle now, right from this moment, to establish the transitional program demanded by the situation, with or without the rank-and-file organizations.
At present, that means being in the forefront, at the side of the Socialist workers, in the struggle to defend democratic rights. That means raising the demand now for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Portuguese troops from Angola.
It is through this struggle that we can give new life to the organs
or embryos of dual power.
3. The Examples of Spain and France
What we have said is common knowledge to Trotskyists. In comparing the Russian and Portuguese revolutions, the Militant stresses the need to develop soviet forms. The Bolshevik party had, indeed, one central axis throughout the crucial year of 1917: giving all power to the soviets. All other demands—Out with the bourgeois ministers, Everyone against Kornilov, Boycott, Constituent Assembly, Peace, etc.—were merely tactical, combining with the basic strategy of the proletarian and socialist revolution taking power through the soviets.
The objection can be raised that this strategy was justified in Russia, where the soviets existed and were centralized throughout the empire, but not in Portugal, where nothing of the sort exists. This is not so. In any country where a prerevolutionary or revolutionary period has opened up, Trotskyists have always adopted one central revolutionary strategy: to develop the existing seeds of dual power, or, where they do not exist, to build them as a way of orienting toward the socialist revolution and the working class taking power. That was how, in situations that were less revolutionary than the current Portuguese situation, Trotskyists raised as the central point of their program the creation or development of soviets or other organs of dual power. Such was the case in Spain starting in 1931 and France in the mid-1930s.
In 1931, a prerevolutionary situation opened in Spain that was much less acute than the one that exists in Portugal today or in Russia in 1917. This was owing, among other reasons, to the Spanish army not having suffered any crisis and thus being able to serve as the main bastion of the counterrevolution. Nevertheless, Trotsky repeatedly emphasized that the only correct political course was to struggle to carry out the democratic tasks, but using as a central axis the development of organs of workers power.
“The masses of the city and countryside,” said Trotsky on January 12, 1931, when the Spanish revolution had barely begun, “can be united at the present time only under democratic slogans ... On the other hand, it will obviously be possible to build soviets in the near future only by mobilizing the masses on the basis of democratic slogans.” (The Spanish Revolution, op. cit., p.66.) In one of his most important works of that period, “The Revolution in Spain,” written in January 1931, Trotsky, despite a temporary setback in the movement, dedicates a special chapter to explaining the need to foster “revolutionary juntas,” the Spanish name for soviets. His slogan is conclusive: “On the order of the day in Spain stands the creation of workers’ juntas.” He also stresses the need for peasants and soldiers juntas. (Ibid., p.86.)
In April of that year, in Ten Commandments of the Spanish Communist, Trotsky summarizes the revolutionary program for Spain in the following way: In points seven and nine he presents the democratic and the agrarian program, but in point eight—which links, and this is not accidental, the other two—he points out that the “central slogan of the proletariat is that of the workers’ soviet.” And, to clear up confusion, he says a few lines further on that “the workers’ soviet does not mean the immediate struggle for power.” (Ibid., p.104. Emphasis in original.)
On the twentieth of the same month, he summarizes the whole Leninist-Trotskyist program for Spain in the following way:
In other words, it is necessary for the communists at present to come forward as the party of the most consistent, decisive, and intransigent defenders of democracy.
On the other hand, it is necessary to proceed immediately with the formation of workers’ soviets. The struggle for democracy is an excellent point of departure for this. They have their own municipal government; we workers need our own city juntas to protect our rights and our interests. (Ibid., p.107. Emphasis in original.)
Trotsky emphasizes this same line again at the end of May in one of his basic articles, The Spanish Revolution and the Dangers Threatening It: “However, the immediate tasks of the Spanish communists is not the struggle for power, but the struggle for the masses, and furthermore this struggle will develop in the next period on the basis of the bourgeois republic and to a great degree under the slogans of democracy. The creations of workers’ juntas is undoubtedly the principal task of the day.” (Ibid., p.128. Emphasis in original.)
By September 1931, Trotsky observes in a letter that the slogan of soviets has not been adopted by the working class, and he draws the conclusion that it is necessary to emphasize the development of a pole of workers power: “At any event, if the slogan of soviets (juntas) fails as yet to meet with a response, then we must concentrate on the slogan of factory committees ... On the basis of factory committees, we can develop the soviet organization without referring to them by name.” (Ibid., p.162.)
After the electoral victory of the popular front and before the civil war, he again stresses the same position. In April 1936, referring to the tasks of the Trotskyists for the moment, he emphasizes in points eight and nine:
8. To insist always on having the fighting masses form and constantly expand their committees of action (juntas, soviets), elected ad hoc.
9. To counterpose the program of the conquest of power, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the social revolution to all hybrid programs (à la Caballero, or à la Maurin).
This is the real road of the proletarian revolution. There is no other.
We do not want to enter again into a discussion as to whether there is a great parallel between republican Spain and Portugal today, as we believe. What there is no doubt about at all is that under conditions that were much less revolutionary than in Portugal today, the essential axis and slogan of our political line were for Trotsky the creation of soviets or organisms of working-class power.
Neither can there be any doubt that Trotsky fought against the tendencies that—like Maitan today—raised the program of soviets or the dictatorship of the proletariat without linking it to the democratic and transitional demands raised by the masses. We have already quoted how he observed that the “struggle for the masses” would develop for a period “on the basis of the Democratic republic  and to a great degree under the slogans of democracy.” To be brief, we will recall only that in criticizing “the platform of the Catalan Federation,” which called upon the “working masses to organize themselves in all the provinces on the basis of revolutionary juntas,” Trotsky answered sharply: “To what end? No program is indicated. Not only is there no mention that juntas of this kind will have to guarantee the revolution ary passage of power into the hands of the workers and the poor peasants, but there is also no program of transitional demands ... They do not so much as mention that the junta is an organization of the proletariat and the exploited masses against the class that is in power, that is, against the bourgeoisie. The junta is taken as a ‘revolutionary organization’ in the spirit of the Spanish petty-bourgeois tradition.” (Ibid., p.137. Emphasis in original.)
Let us now take the French example. In 1935, when a reactionary Bonapartist government came to power and fascism developed along with the economic crisis, Trotsky did not raise a program of democratic rights—as did Stalinism—but a very different one: “While explaining constantly to the masses that rotting capitalism has no place either for the alleviation of their situation or even for the maintenance of their customary level of misery, while putting openly before the masses the tasks of the socialist revolution as the immediate task of our day, while mobilizing the workers for the conquest of power, while defending the workers’ organizations with the help of the workers’ militia, the communists (or the socialists) will at the same time lose no opportunity to snatch this or that partial concession from the enemy, or at least to prevent the further lowering of the living standard of the workers.” (Whither France? [New York: Pioneer Publishers], p.66.)
In June 1936, beginning with the occupations and the popular front, Trotsky raises the following program: “The Committees of Action cannot be at present anything but the committees of those strikers who are seizing the enterprises. From one industry to another, from one factory to the next, from one working class district to another, from city to city, the Committees of Action must establish a close bond with each other. They must meet in each city, in each productive group in their regions in order to end with a Congress of all the Committees of Action in France. This will be the new order which must take the place of the reigning anarchy.” (Ibid., pp.147-48.)
The above was written on June 5, 1936; a few days later, on June 9, he emphasized a position similar to the one he adopted in relation to Spain: “The new organization must correspond to the nature of the movement itself. It must reflect the struggling masses. It must reflect their growing will. This is a question of the direct representation of the revolutionary class. Here it is not necessary to invent new forms. Historical precedents exist. The industries and factories will elect their deputies who will meet to elaborate jointly plans of struggle and to provide the leadership. Nor is it necessary to invent the name for such an organization; it is the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies.” (Ibid., p.155. Emphasis in original.)
Was Trotsky wrong in considering the axis of revolutionary politics
to be the creation and development of soviets and other organs of
power, emphasizing it so much and subordinating all the other slogans
to this central task? Or was he right, and, leaving aside any tactical
differences, is this the correct line for Portugal today? The latter is
our opinion: It is necessary to defend, develop, and centralize the
workers commissions and soldiers committees; it is necessary to give
them the perspective of the socialist revolution, prepare them for the
inevitable armed struggle against the government; it is necessary to
link them with all the tasks confronting the Portuguese masses. Any
other policy is not Trotskyist, but “POUMism” of various kinds, which
uses the Bolshevik-Leninist program to avoid denouncing and confronting
the counterrevolutionary government of the MFA-CP, as well as pursuing
the socialist revolution, which are the two immediate tasks facing. the
We must avoid succumbing to any temptation to elaborate a program that would be nothing but a sample book of slogans of all kinds. The program must be a combination of slogans for a stage of the struggle, structured around an axis; a programmatic structure, not a collection. The axis must be the one already indicated: to develop and centralize the seeds of dual power in preparation for taking power. Only in this way will we succeed in working out an understandable program for the Portuguese revolution. In our opinion, this must be, in summary, the following:
A. An economic and public-works plan of the commissions and committees to overcome the No.1 problem: the economic crisis, unemployment, and the starvation wages of the soldiers.
There is nothing more urgent for the Portuguese masses than to overcome the current economic chaos, unemployment, and the starvation wages received by the soldiers. Thus, it is necessary for the workers and soldiers commissions to discuss an economic and public-works plan that would provide employment for all the Portuguese and a decent, minimum, sliding wage, extending to soldiers, too. In this plan we would support the need to nationalize foreign trade, the land, and industry. It is not necessary to wait for the workers commissions to meet in a national congress to take steps in that direction. It is necessary to adopt, now, immediately, at the level of each neighborhood, industrial branch, or monopoly group, concrete measures to provide jobs for the unemployed and solve their problems. To finish the job of unmasking the MFA-SP-CP, we must propagandize our plan or that of some of the workers commissions so that the whole workers movement discusses it, demanding that the government put it into practice.
B. Down with the government restrictions on the right to strike and organize unions. For the democratization of the Intersindical. For revolutionary trade unions that support the struggle of the workers commissions for power.
The officers and bureaucrats of the MFA customarily attend the assemblies of the industrial unions, invited and tolerated by the Stalinist bureaucracy. Not satisfied with that, they have decreed two ultrareactionary laws: against the right to strike and recognition of the present leadership of the industrial unions without new elections. We must not rest until the MFA officers and troops are ousted from the assemblies. We must do it tactfully, avoiding confrontations with the soldiers, telling them that they can stay if they agree to abide by the discipline of the workers assembly, otherwise they will have to leave. We must denounce the Stalinist bureaucracy for its complicity with the MFA officers in the assemblies. Our intransigent defense of the Intersindical and the industrial unions must be accompanied with denunciations of their bureaucratization and lack of democracy. We must demand new elections and proportional representation for all the various union tendencies. We must form revolutionary trade-union tendencies with the activists in the workers commissions who believe that the trade unions must be in favor of the revolution of the workers commissions. We must fight tirelessly to abolish the laws that allow the bourgeois state to intervene in the life of the trade unions. Workers have the right to join the trade union of their choice or to create new ones.
C. For workers control of the nationalized companies. Out with the MFA bureaucrats in the nationalized or occupied companies. Out with the MFA managers in the nationalized banks. For control of all the banks by a committee of the commissions in the nationalized companies.
We must inculcate the idea among workers that the MFA officers and bureaucrats are their class enemies. We must emphasize that everything should remain under their control and not in the hands of administrators named by our perfidious enemies, the bureaucrats of the MFA. The time has come to occupy any factory that has been closed down or is badly administered, so it can begin to work at full capacity, establishing, wherever possible, “direct administration by the workers.” It is necessary to demand that the state pay the wages. But the fundamental problem is that of the nationalized banks. It is necessary to put their abundant financial resources at the service of the workers and their commissions: against financial sabotage, for control of the banks. Thus, combining the control of the banks and industry, including their administration, we will fight both kinds of sabotage.
D. Forward with factory, land, and building occupations.
The Portuguese proletariat has occupied many factories, houses, buildings, and some land. The development of that revolutionary method must be continued. Through the occupations, the unity between the workers and the impoverished masses in the cities and countryside will be established. Let the poor peasants and agricultural workers wait no longer: occupy the land, it belongs to you.
E. Oust the bureaucratic officers of the MFA from the workers commissions. For the independence of the workers commissions from the Stalinist-controlled unions. If they serve any purpose, let us intervene in the popular assemblies to expel the MFA officers. No rest until we win the leadership of the rank-and-file organisms away from the ultraleft, the loud-mouthed agent of the MFA.
Under the pretext of supporting the rank-and-file organisms, the MFA officers and bureaucrats go to their meetings and try to manipulate the workers commissions. Very skillfully, they now try to create “Popular Assemblies” controlled by them and their Stalinist servants in order to better control workers power and to avoid the independent revolutionary initiative of the class. We must tell any “strangers,” beginning with the officers, that to remain in the rank-and-file assemblies they must publicly break completely with the discipline of the MFA, the government, and the armed forces, abiding only by the decisions of the rank-and-file organisms. If they refuse, we must not rest until we have ousted them. The workers commissions must denounce the MFA officers as their sworn enemies. This does not mean that we should not be tactful, especially in approaching the popular assemblies. We must also work with the workers and soldiers who participate in them. We must even leave open the possibility of their acquiring a soviet character, in which case we should develop them. But even then, our line will be the same: to denounce, brand, and expel the MFA officers and their agents from them.
The other side of this approach must be our struggle inside these rank-and-file organisms to win the leadership and throw out the ultraleft, an agent of the MFA despite the ultrarevolutionary phrases and speeches. To achieve this we must systematically press the workers commissions and soldiers committees to support any popular or workers struggle against the government. The ultraleft will drown these “minimal” proposals in a river of revolutionary phrases. We must insist, again and again—tirelessly—until we convince the rank-and-file workers and soldiers that the ultraleft only knows how to brawl but not how to confront the government. Today, we must be champions in the defense of the rights of the Socialist Party within the workers and soldiers commissions. Any Trotskyist comrade who, out of fear of being attacked by the ultralefts, does not passionately defend within the committees the right of the SP to have its own press and other means of mass communication, is helping in prostituting and corroding these rank-and-file organisms, permitting them to be transformed into weapons of the MFA’s Bonapartist counterrevolution. We must propose against the ultraleft—the loud-mouthed servant of the “left” wing of the MFA (that is, of the MFA)—that these committees participate with their own slogans and banners in the Socialist demonstrations in defense of Repùblica. In this way, we will much more quickly destroy the counterrevolutionary maneuvers of the SP, which wants to establish its own popular-front government and which hates the seeds of dual power just as much or more than the government does.
The attempt by the Stalinist trade-union bureaucracy to transform the workers commissions into regular organs of the unions is a more subtle, but no less dangerous, maneuver. Against it, our slogan is for the complete independence of the workers commissions from the Stalinist trade unions.
F. Let us accelerate the crisis in the imperialist army. For spreading the assemblies and Committees of the soldiers and lower officers. Let us defeat the MFA maneuvers in the army by expelling the officers from these assemblies. For the arming of the proletariat. Let us begin forming an army of workers and soldiers militias that elects its own officers.
The army is the sector where dual power is most explosive. We have to provide it with a clear perspective and objective: to overthrow the imperialist government so as to transfer all power to the commissions. We have to accelerate the crisis with audacious, practical slogans right now, immediately. We must spread the assemblies and commissions of soldiers and lower officers to all the units of the armed forces. Until the workers and soldiers militias are created we must propose that the soldiers elect their own officers, and that meanwhile officers cannot attend the soldiers assemblies nor be elected to the committees unless they break with the discipline of the armed forces and the MFA. In this way, we will defeat the MFA’s maneuvers of granting certain democratic concessions in order to win the soldiers over to the imperialist army.
To counter the MFA’s maneuver of discussing only administrative problems or that courses be given in the assemblies, we must demand that the burning, current issues of the Portuguese revolution be discussed, beginning with the issue of minimum wages for soldiers. At present there is no issue of more burning nature than that of democratic rights and the defense of the Socialist Party. We must demand that it be the first point on the agenda in all the meetings and that representatives of the SP be invited to explain their policies. We must invite all Socialist soldiers to attend the assemblies to defend their party, guaranteeing them the broadest democratic rights. Let us oppose any attempt by the loud-mouthed ultralefts, and their bosses in the MFA, to obstruct through physical and ideological terrorism the right of Socialists and Trotskyists to speak in the assemblies, demanding and practicing the broadest democracy. We must turn the soldiers against the MFA government and bring them to defend the rights of all the parties, mainly the Socialist Party.
Those workers commissions and assemblies conscious of the need to destroy the bourgeois army must establish close ties with the neighborhood soldiers assemblies and committees and pound on these slogans. We must immediately pose the need for economic aid to the soldiers, giving them jobs and studying with them what can be done to improve their position of armed pariahs. At the same time they must be asked to provide the workers with arms to be used for practice. When great mutual confidence is established, they must be asked to put their arms under the control of mixed workers and soldiers commissions. Workers and soldiers militias that elect their own officers must be created.
G. For a new Revolutionary Constituent Assembly. For the defense of the rights of all the Portuguese. For the defense of the democratic rights of the Socialist Party and the Maoists.
The Constituent Assembly was born dead. Only the government of the workers commissions will be able to convoke a new, absolutely free, sovereign, and revolutionary Constituent Assembly. This slogan will permit us to denounce the counterrevolutionary, antidemocratic nature of the present government and develop genuine democratic rights for all the Portuguese, which can be guaranteed only by a workers government. Meanwhile, we must struggle against the government’s antidemocratic measures. We must pay special attention to the democratic rights of the Maoists, and, above all, those of the party of the majority of the workers, the Socialist Party. The only way to expose the Socialist Party’s counterrevolutionary plan of smothering the revolution under a parliamentary bourgeois regime is precisely by defending, and even extending, democratic rights. We should and can convince the rank and file of the Socialist Party that workers commissions and Trotskyists in government will guarantee the democratic rights of all the Portuguese. Only our actions will convince the Socialist workers that we do more than talk; we carry out our promises. We must take our propaganda and our struggle in defense of the democratic rights of the Socialist Party to the workers commissions and soldiers committees. Let us not fear the attacks of the ultralefts, the CP, and the officers of the MFA, who shout that the SP does not deserve to be defended because it is an agent of European imperialism. They are the agents of our main enemy: Portuguese imperialism.
If we do not convince the Socialist workers of the correctness of our positions, there will be no socialist revolution in Portugal. Because of this, the defense of the Socialist Party, such as its right to continue to publish, uncensored, the daily Repùblica, is a tactical problem of fundamental importance. A great part of our strategy to make the revolution of the workers commissions is based on this at present.
H. For the immediate withdrawal of Portuguese troops and arms from Angola. Down with the neocolonial maneuvers. For complete self-determination, national, political, and economical, for the former Portuguese colonies.
The Portuguese government and army continue to be imperialist. No confidence in their maneuvers or supposedly good intentions. Let the African nations take into their hands their own destiny. The only, not the best, aid to their struggles is to force the government to immediately withdraw its troops and arms from Angola. All peoples who struggle for national or social liberation know how and where to find arms. It is up to the Angolans to solve their problems, including the civil war. The Portuguese need only get out of Angola and all the former colonies, compelling the government to withdraw not only its soldiers, but also its arms, breaking all the pacts, and abandoning all the neoimperialist maneuvers.
I. For severing relations with NATO and the Iberian Pact. For an Iberian Federation of Socialist Republics based on Committees.
It is not sufficient to break the pacts tying Portugal to world imperialism and to fascist Spain (NATO and the Iberian Pact). These measures should be part of a revolutionary process in the Iberian Peninsula, as part of the European revolution. Spain is coming close to a prerevolutionary situation; let us give a revolutionary, worker, and socialist perspective to the solidarity and fraternity of both revolutions. For an Iberian Federation of Socialist Republics! This is the slogan that represents both this perspective and the right of self-determination for the Basques, Catalans, Galicians, and Andalucians.
J. For a National Congress of the Workers Commissions and Soldiers Committees to defeat the counterrevolution ary government of the MFA and take power. For the Socialist Revolution.
This does not mean only a national congress of the
rank-and-file organisms. It must be given a clear perspective and
objective: toppling the imperialist government in order to give all
power to the workers and soldiers commissions. Anyone seeking to topple
the government at the present time is an adventurer. The movement of
the workers and the masses is not yet ready for this, nor has it built
the organism needed to replace it. But anyone who does not raise in
propaganda and activity this immediate objective, power to the
commissions and committees, is an opportunist, because this is the most
immediate and urgent need and possibility facing the Portuguese masses.
The big task is to win over the working class, the soldiers, and
peasants in order to fulfill this slogan and to construct the organism
that will effect it: the national congress of commissions and
committees. Once again the task of the Trotskyists is to patiently
explain the need to take power.
Clearly, Trotsky posed as the main task for Spain and France an organizational task: to found, develop, and centralize organs of workers power. In certain moments of the life of a party or a country, the orientation of the work, the location of the militants, or organizational forms comes to the fore. Trotskyism has considered it a matter of principle that its militants and parties work in the unions, no matter how reactionary the leadership may be. For decades in the United States the programmatic axis has clearly been organizational: the founding of a labor party. For the Black movement, the Trotskyists have favored organizing a Black party against the other two bourgeois parties. But these distinct forms should not make us forget the revolutionary content in the formulas. Trotsky proposed “juntas” or soviets in Spain because this was the best organizational form to carry out the socialist revolution. They were soviets to make the socialist revolution. When we say that one cannot be a Trotskyist without working in the unions, we are saying that one cannot be a disciple of Trotsky without being with the working class, our class, in its defensive, elementary, economic struggles, against the capitalist class and that one must work in the organizations the class has created in order to carry out these struggles: the unions. The SWP struggles without quarter for a labor party as the organizational expression of the political liberation of the American working class from the bourgeois parties that exploit it, not only economically, but politically.
The building of these organizations is in itself an immense historical advance. The appearance of unions in a country is a fundamental milestone in the development of the consciousness of the working class. In principle, the program or leadership of this organizational form is not important. In itself it is a colossal advance. The same holds for soviets or a labor party. It is not important if they have a reformist leadership or reformist politics when they are founded. In Russia the soviets were led at the beginning by the reformists, which was no obstacle to considering them to be the greatest revolutionary gain of the Russian masses. The same was true of the founding of the British Labour party at the beginning of the century.
There is a contradictory dialectical relation between form and content, and very seldom do the leaderships or policies coincide with the profound significance of a form. The soviets, a form of workers state and belonging to the socialist revolution, were led at the beginning by those who used them to support Russian capitalism.
Something similar happens with methods of struggle; they have a certain autonomy, are often progressive, useful in themselves. Strikes, general strikes, demonstrations, boycotts, actions, an insurrection, are all adequate measures for different objectives. A general strike, for whatever reason it is carried out, poses the question of power. The objective could be a 2 percent general increase in wages, but its political consequence is the questioning of bourgeois power.
We pose these considerations because there has not been enough emphasis on the No.1 task in Portugal, being the best militants in the Intersindical and mainly the workers commissions and the soldiers committees. Even if our sympathizers or militants were to work in other parties, this would be a tactical matter. The objective must be to strengthen the revolutionary work in the Intersindical and in essence the committees of different kinds.
Not to indicate this area of obligatory work as the fundamental task or base of our movement in Portugal means propagandizing in general for our positions, but not doing what we must do, that is, build a combat organization to steer the mass struggles toward taking power. The success of a transitional program in revolutionary Portugal rests on this first programmatic requisite. The second requisite is that we go into these organizations in order to confront their leaderships, the agents of imperialism and of the MFA government, whether they are Stalinists, Maoists, or Socialists, to win the organizations to our transition program for the workers revolution.
The new reality, which requires that we concentrate our forces in the commissions and committees, has modified the traditional application of our tactic of the united front. This is a tactic that requires concrete conditions to be applied. That is, it has to be a policy that reflects the deepest needs and the most keenly felt aspirations of the working class as a whole, not a mere expression of our desires. The expression of our desires, if they went counter to the reality, would serve, despite the best of intentions, only to cover up the counterrevolutionary policies of the bourgeois government. This is what the POUM did systematically during the Spanish revolution: with its declamations in favor of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the united front, and similar things—without the least doubt honest and well-intentioned—it hid the real problems that faced the working class and the revolutionary solutions corresponding to them.
When Stalinism was the principal counterrevolutionary factor in the republican camp, the POUM raised the slogan of a “government formed by representatives of all the political and trade-union organizations of the working class, which would propose as immediate tasks the realization of the following program” ; and then came a program that was correct in general. To carry out this policy, the POUM proposed that the government convoke a “congress of delegates of trade unions, peasants and fighters, which when the time came would elect a permanent government of workers and peasants.”
The united front is not an abstraction but a tool to develop the class struggle. We Marxists favor a united front of the workers organizations whenever there are tasks that the militants and parties feel to be common. Because of this, Trotskyists have always considered that the politics of the POUM directly betrayed the Spanish revolution, since it called for the realization of a united front with the traitorous parties, direct agents, at the time, of the counterrevolution. This hid the truth from the workers movement: The main enemy of the workers within the republican camp was the Socialist-Stalinist government, principally Stalinism. They were agents of the bourgeois counterrevolution; it was necessary to denounce them politically at once, in order to prepare the physical confrontation later, when the mass movement had become convinced. Concretely, the Trotskyists, who were for the united front in its various forms before Franco’s coup, abandoned this policy after the coup. Or, more exactly, they gave it a directly opposite form: develop the workers committees, the occupations, and the soldiers committees, without posing the united front among the workers parties, direct agents of the counterrevolution. Something like that would occur in Portugal in Spínola’s putsch, instead of being defeated, had divided the country into two opposing camps in the civil war, or it would occur if with the passage of time, Spínolism would again appear and threaten a new coup.
In face of the danger from Spínola the formula of a united front would be applicable, because it would correspond to a profound need and aspirations felt by the masses and the parties representing them: to confront Spínola and defeat him. But once Spínola was beaten, this policy would have to be replaced by another: systematic denunciation of the Communist Party and the MFA, as well as its government, as the most immediate danger facing the workers and the conquests of the workers movement and the Portuguese masses. There are no—there cannot be for the time being—common points of any kind between the policies of the CP and ours, just as there could not be, in the republican camp, anything in common between the policies of Spanish Stalinism and Trotskyism. The CP, as the agent of the MFA, is the enemy confronting the working class; the MFA-CP is, consequently, the immediate enemy facing us and the working class.
This does not imply that we should not apply the united front. We must do it, but on the only level permitted us by the reality. Strategically, we abandon the traditional form of practicing the united front: calling on the parties. But we defend an elementary form of the united front—the Intersindical—and another much more elevated: the development everywhere of the commissions of workers, of tenants, of peasants, and the soldiers committees. We propose to the reformist parties that they recognize and join the commissions, where all their democratic rights will be recognized but where they will be called on to abide by the resolutions that are passed.
Precisely to defend this form of the united front, the highest one,
the one of direct democracy of the mass movement, we do not want to be
sidetracked by formulas of a different, much more backward stage of the
class struggle, when the main danger is a direct offensive by the
bourgeoisie, that of appealing to the reformist parties. Tactically, we
must and we can utilize the differences between them, defending
democratic rights in general, and those of the Socialist Party in
particular. But this would be a tactical variation, undoubtedly of
great importance, of our essential united-front policy: developing the
workers commissions and the soldiers committees against the
Bonapartistic and parliamentarian plans opposing them, and against the
counterrevolutionary petty-bourgeois parties that advance these plans:
the Communists, the Socialists, and the Maoists.
6. The Agreement With the Socialist Party to Defend Democratic Freedoms
Everything we have just said runs up against the same danger that various comrades have fallen into: dissolving the concrete political problems into more or less correct abstract formulas. The general program we have presented, the need to participate in and be the best defenders of the Intersindical, the workers commissions, and the soldiers committees, must not be utilized to evade the questions of the day and the Trotskyist response to them. As part of this danger, there is another similar one: to capitulate to fetishism of the organizations in which we are active. If the Intersindical or the commissions say nothing, playing the government’s game, or, what is worse, coming out in favor of the government—to let that lead us into abandoning our correct struggle over concrete problems.
We say this because it concerns the agreement that we should and must make with the Socialist Party to defend its democratic rights. In Portugal in recent weeks there have been demonstrations in favor of the daily Repùblica and for keeping it from becoming part of the MFA-CP’s quasi-monopoly of the radio and television. It is an enormously progressive struggle and as such we must join in it and participate in it to the utmost.
The LCR of France, in a public declaration that appeared in the June 6 issue of Rouge, took the following position: “In Portugal, as in France, we demand the nationalization without indemnification or compensation of the paper enterprises, printing plants, distributors, the setting up of a public press service, guaranteeing the standard of living and jobs of the workers in this branch of production.” And with respect to the specific conflict over Repùblica, they took the following position: “Consequently we support the struggle of the workers of Repùblica in defense of their conditions of work; we condemn any attempt to limit their right to strike. We do not approve the way in which these workers have, in the name of this struggle, taken the right to exercise censorship instead of control over the contents of the newspaper.”
First of all, what is the meaning of a concrete position that can be applied, according to the League, both in Portugal and France—the “nationalization of the press,” the setting up of “a public press service” ? The LCR is copying the position taken by Lenin after the soviets and the Bolshevik party took power, since it is almost a duplicate of the decree passed by the Bolshevik government and Lenin’s proposal. The LCR is moving way ahead to the period when workers power dominates the country. Because the question at bottom is who is going to control the nationalized press? Giscard d’Estaing in France and the counterrevolutionaries of the MFA-CP in Portugal? The League does not even raise the POUMist slogan of workers control.
It is not by accident that the League leaps across countries and revolutionary stages in taking its political position with respect to Repùblica. In Portugal we face a totalitarian, counterrevolutionary plan of the MFA-CP to control the press, television, and radio. The League does not even bother to mention this plan and counterrevolutionary policy, nor does it take a position on it. It would seem that the Repùblica case could occur in any country in the world or in none. But the Repùblica case falls within this plan; it is not limited to the struggle between an isolated workers commission and an isolated private enterprise in no matter what country in the world. It is part of the scene in Portugal. Today the enterprise is in the hands of the antidemocratic counterrevolutionary forces of the MFA. What are the Portuguese revolutionists to do in face of the troops posted at the doors of Repùblica, what do they say to the workers in the printing plant who want to occupy and control it, and what do they say to the Socialist workers who want their organ to appear without being censored? Do we say that we are for “nationalization without remuneration” and “for a public press service” ? Doesn’t that mean washing our hands of the case? Doesn’t it mean furthering the counterrevolutionary policy of the MFA symbolized in the soldiers posted at the doors? Isn’t a concrete policy called for of a united front between the typographical workers of Repùblica on the inside and the Socialist workers on the outside, both of them holding positions and imbued with aims that are profoundly positive, against the common enemy standing at the door?
But where the abstractness in their position shows up the most is in not taking into account more than one element of the reality, the factory occupations—and more concretely, a single occupation, the one in the daily Repùblica. The other reality is the Socialist workers who are demonstrating for democratic rights and the return of Repùblica. What stand should we take?
The essence of our program is the revolution of the workers commissions and the committees of soldiers against the counterrevolutionary government of the MFA-CP-SP and their “useful idiots,” the Maoists and ultras. Without any sectarianism we must call for a revolutionary front, as the anteroom for the construction of a mass Trotskyist party that in the struggle for power will lead all the militants, factions, or tendencies that agree on the following point, and only this point: It is necessary to organize and prepare the revolution of the workers commissions against the MFA government. As part of this front, and to help construct it, it is necessary to pitilessly unmask the reformist, centrist, and ultraleft parties that are against this simple task or that sow confusion around it. No confusion: there is a clear dividing line. On the one side are all those who together with the Trotskyists are in favor of the socialist revolution of the workers commissions, against the enemy of the workers, the MFA government. On the other side are all those who are direct agents of the imperialist counterrevolution, like the SP, or the counterrevolutionary imperialist government of the MFA, like the CP. Maoism, sower of confusion, inheritor of the counterrevolutionary Stalinist theory of stages, has played a counterrevolutionary role throughout the world. We see no reason why it would cease doing so in Portugal. In the best of cases, some of its groups could orient toward the program of the socialist revolution. But nearing that program would be accompanied by a clear sign: a break with Maoism; such a group would become Trotskyist or it would become nothing.
The progress of our movement will follow like a shadow the development of the workers commissions and the committees of soldiers, provided that the Portuguese Trotskyists always carry forward a transitional program of workers revolution, to be brought to completion by the commissions. Our comrades in Portugal have the floor to demonstrate how to construct a great party with the only correct method and program: that of our world movement.
4. This is obviously a slip of the pen. The exact quote is “bourgeois republic.” — Translator.
Last updated on 30.12.2002