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International Socialism, July/August 1975


Portugal: The Views of a PRP Leader


From International Socialism, No.80, July/August 1975, pp.19-20.
Transcribed & marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Immediately after the IS national conference, fraternal delegates from various countries met to exchange views on the problems of building revolutionary parties. This is a shortened version of the contribution made by a leading member of the PRP (Revolutionary Party of the Proletariat) of Portugal. The PRP was founded, as an illegal organisation, under the old dictatorship. The Revolutionary Brigades referred to were organisations of armed struggle at that time.

We hold two fundamental principles:

  1. Without the party the revolution is impossible.
  2. Without the party there will be no autonomous organisation of the class and without this the class will never take power or hold it.

Our party has survived throughout a long internal struggle. This struggle has lead to cohesion in the party. At our first congress there was a very vivid discussion. Should the Revolutionary Brigades be considered as autonomous organs of the class? We had to struggle against militarism, against anarcho-syndicalist and spontaneist tendencies. The development of the class struggle had not at that time created the conditions for the emergence of revolutionary organs.


When a party is truly revolutionary it grows enormously (in a revolutionary situation – Ed.). In our efforts to organise we were concerned about mass growth, about our ability to cope with a huge influx, but we have developed a structure for integrating new members. Our party has always been a cadre party – this does not mean that we are all ideological geniuses. It means that there is full discussion at all levels and that all our members are active. We are a cadre party of workers and militants based in the class.

There is another side of the recruitment/probationary membership coin which has not yet been raised. That is, that probationary membership is used to preserve the existing structures of the party.

We also have the problem of how to make sure our worker members hold key positions inside the party. Over 90 per cent of our members are workers and over a half of them are manual workers. We are now faced with an influx of students into the organisation – we don’t refuse them membership, although we are slightly hesitant about this and it could lead to problems. In Oporto about 20 students have been expelled by decisions of our working class members.

Our party is based on the workplaces. Branches in workplaces and barracks each elect a delegate to the regional executive. All other branches in that area hold an aggregate which elects one delegate to the regional executive. (The members of non-workplace [geographical] branches are used for paper-selling, flyposting, etc.). The Central Committee of the organisation was elected at our congress last summer, since when we haven’t been able to hold another congress. We were faced with the need to enlarge the Central Committee and we have done this by elections through the regions. The Central Committee now has 70 members, 53 of whom are manual workers. We also have the problem of making the party function as a whole – at the moment it is more like a federation – which is particularly important for the organisation of the revolutionary councils and the alternative that they pose. Here is posed the question of party and class. We must transform the party to represent deep co-ordination between the revolutionary councils. So that the party can work within the revolutionary councils there must be deep co-ordination at organisational level.

Our party recruits in struggles, in all the forms of organisation that emerge in the struggle – workers’ and tenants’ committees, organisations of agricultural workers, etc.

What are your criteria for membership?

We admit all militants immediately – we have no rules for membership, although we still discriminate – a result of the party defending itself. Worker cadres immediately become party militants – if they are experienced they become leaders and we encourage ‘promotion’. Two things have held up our recruitment – firstly, development of the economic character of struggles and the success of these struggles; we were also trying to recruit through propaganda alone and this was a bit inefficient. Secondly, large numbers of workers have an aversion to joining political parties. For example, the Communist Party, which was the best-known political party after the coup and was very effective at one stage has sold out the workers. Parties like the Maoists, who are mainly students, have earned the distrust of the workers.

What role does your paper play in helping the party to act as a whole?

The paper has played a very weak role. We have tried to deal with this problem by holding plenary meetings. One of our problems was that decisions were taken on an ad-hoc basis, the leadership was sometimes slow to respond, etc. But the federal nature has a concrete basis in that it corresponds to the uneven state of the class.

Our paper is turned towards the public. It expresses the position of the organisation, and usually has one or two pages of news about the party itself. A lot of cadres are recruited through the paper, (which has a circulation of over 25,000) but we are going to review its orientation, as we may be able to improve on it.

How many papers are sold by the worker members?

I’m not sure of the exact figures now. About five or six months ago sales by the worker members were weaker, but now there are regular sales in factories and workplaces and these are growing. But we build through struggles as well – the situation in Portugal is different.

The question of building the party is a political, not a technical question. It is not easy to translate our orientation into organisational terms, there is a constant struggle between the rank and file cadres and the leadership. A revolutionary situation demands great mutability in forms of organisation. At times forms of organisation emerge which are a response to technical definitions and orientations. Very often the apparatus is too slow to transform in the way the situation demands. We understand that building the party is a political question and we put a great effort into our analysis. We attempt to take this analysis to the class – for example, through proposals which our militants raise on the Interempresas, workers’ councils and union organisations and through the constitution of the revolutionary councils.

The posing of a revolutionary alternative and the creation of autonomous organs of the class will change the MFA (Armed Forces Movement), the reformist organisations and the coalition government. The party must be in a position to respond to this. We have studied the Chilean situation. We detected crucial moments in the situation. The revolutionary process did not develop at these points and the working class was defeated. We think that we are in one of those crucial moments in Portugal now. We must develop the revolutionary councils to become a strong and decisive force of the class in the shortest possible time. If this does not happen and if the reformist line is established this will quickly lead to fascism. If the Supreme Council of Revolution is not overthrown by a deep wave of class struggle this will also lead to fascism. There are many reformist organisations in Portugal – Maoism is another form of reformism.

The coalition government is bankrupt. The Armed Forces Movement is a political organisation of the army and at the present moment it dominates the army, but it will be overcome by this revolutionary elan which will construct a bloc between soldiers and workers – a revolutionary army, which will have nothing to do with the Armed Forces Movement although it will include members of the Armed Forces Movement.

Will there be splits in the Socialist Party and Communist Party which will join this revolutionary bloc?

Neither the Socialist Party nor the Communist Party through their own nature have splits in this revolutionary situation. To have splits they would have to have trends that lead in that direction and they don’t. There are isolated militants within these parties who could become revolutionaries. There are also many cadres with no perspectives at the moment, who could get those perspectives as the revolutionary bloc gains strength.

How strong are the revolutionary councils?

When I left Portugal there were only a few – in Setnave, Marinha Grande, Lisnave, TAP – but they could be formed very fast. Dozens of pro-council committees, working to build revolutionary councils, have been formed – in 40 military units, and in dozens of factories. It is possible that many more have been formed while I’ve been away, if the political conditions were right. In the very near future many councils will grow up – we have had to hold back the formation of councils to avoid a situation where they developed in advance and in isolation from the rest of the class – a situation in which it would have been easy to have isolated or defeated them.

Have any of the councils appeared and then disappeared?


What are the pro-revolutionary council committees?

It depends – in Lisnave the pro-council committee has 80 members – in Setnave it is the entire workers’ councils, in other places they are three or four militants. They are not propaganda cells but nuclei. The Provisional Secretariat of the pro-council committees that was elected at the first congress (April) has been swelled by members from all over the country and from congresses which have been held everywhere.

How does the PRP (Revolutionary Party of the Proletariat) relate to the councils?

We pursue the same policies as in any other workers’ organisation, workplace, etc.

Do the councils include members of other political parties?

The first congress of the pro-council committees decides that all parties left of the Socialist Party and all union organisations, etc. should be represented on the Secretariat. The PRP (Revolutionary Party of the Proletariat) proposes this because if the parties are openly represented their militants do not have to pursue clandestine struggle but can put their position directly from the Secretariat.

We thought previously that the PRP over-emphasised the autonomous organisations of the class. You can have organisations that are autonomous of the bourgeoisie, but not of the revolutionary party in that the party always tights for the leadership within those organisations.

When we speak about autonomous organisations we mean autonomous in relation to the bourgeoisie but we also mean a form of independent life of the class and the intervention of the party. We had to over-emphasise the autonomous nature of the organisations, to counter the use of that autonomy by the other political parties, which discredited the idea of autonomous organisations.

June 1975

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