Friday, January 31, 2020

Marxist approach to the concept of race

Origins of the myth of race

ISR Supplement

The Militant February 21, 1992

The following is the text of a talk given at a December 28-29 regional socialist educational conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. The gathering, which drew participants from cities in Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska, also discussed topics ranging from the political situation in the United States to the origins of women's oppression and why working people should defend immigrants' rights. 


ln Dubuque, Iowa during the last six months there have been 14 incidents of cross burnings with 20 crosses burned. Right-wing racist forces on a national scale have decided to put a spotlight on integration plans in Dubuque and have called for a march January 18 in support of what they call ''white rights." 

For the last several weeks newspapers in Dubuque have given regular, matter-of-fact coverage to this proposed action. A headline from a recent issue of Dubuque's Telegraph Herald reads: "White Rights Group Plans January March." 

No quote marks are placed around "white rights." This tends to legitimize the notion that there is such a thing as "white rights" that this white supremacist organization is championing. The National Association for the Advancement of White People, another racist outfit, has announced its support for the January 18 march. Some civil rights supporters are calling for protests against the actions by the ultra-rightists. 

Here in the Twin Cities we have a small formation called the White Student Union. Its members are attempting to start an organization at the University of Minnesota. The group has attempted to draw in reactionary fascist skin-heads from East St. Paul to conduct thug attacks on antiracist fighters. This has generated protests by students and others, not only at the University of Minnesota, but at other campuses in the area as well. 

I'd like to describe what this organization sees as its purpose. A flier distributed by the group says: 

"What's the purpose of the White Student Union? To protest affirmative action and quotas and to promote white culture. What is white culture? Each race is naturally predisposed to its own set of values. White values are reflected in such time-tested cultural expressions as classical music, canonized literature, a representative form of government, a free market economic system, Western medicine, romantic love, and the nuclear family. Whites tend to value a specific kind of analytical thinking based on logic rather than intuition, knowledge, or dogmatic adherence to preset rationales." 

Continuing, the White Student Union states, "Western white thinking consists of analytical observation, detailed intellectual exploration, effectively explicit social discourse, and inner gratification arising from increased understanding about life. Whites structure their lives as if time is objectively real and ultimately linear, setting high goals and aspiring to accomplish them through tenacious hard work in a free market system where they can set their own goals, whites value their personal ambitions deeply, and thus find great satisfaction in striving towards excellence with every resource they can tap ... " The leaflet goes on in that strain. 

"lsn't everybody equal? Equal according to what values? Would you judge a raccoon as if it were a canary? Everyone is different. If people were all the same it would never matter whether one talked to one person rather than another. It is preferable to be free to aspire to achieve one's full cultural potential] in a community which reflects one's own natural cultural values." 

Then the flier, referring to quotas and affirmative action, asks, "What characteristics does the White Student Union hope to find and foster in its members? Primarily the White Student Union welcomes people who are pro-white. We protest racism against whites, and adhere to white values in our lives. We work with a strong will, consciously avoiding such defeatist attitudes as cynicism and despair. 

"We are heterosexual, and happy about it. We strive to promote white culture, to observe honestly what directions it is taking, and to preserve the ideals we value most within it'' ln an earlier article, White Student Union leader Tom David describes who he considers to be part of the "white race,'' making it explicit that Jews are not part of it. He didn't explain what 'race they are part of. 

Is there a white race?' 

These two recent examples from Dubuque and the Twin Cities reflect an increasing ideological offensive by rightwing and fascist-type organizations that utilize reactionary demagogy. They pose important questions that working people and youth must answer: Is there such a thing as a "white race" with distinct "white rights?" Is there a white culture? Does affirmative action for Blacks and other oppressed nationalities harm workers with white skins? Is there a Black race with rights? Are there races at all? If so how are they determined, by what criteria? How many are there? 

To pose these questions is to implicitly ask if there are parts of the human population that can be identified as belonging to distinct and inferior races. 

Is the question of whether or not the White Student Union should be officially recognized as a campus organization the same as whether or not a Black student union should be recognized? 

What about antihate laws? Is the hatred of oppressed Blacks against their oppression the same as the hatred expressed by Tom David, David Duke, Patrick Buchanan, and so on? 

These questions can't be pooh-poohed, dismissed, or just answered superficially. Clear, scientific answers are needed to counter the demagogy of the ultra-right and fascist elements - not to convince the cadre elements of fascist organizations but because these ideas have confused thousands of workers, farmers, students, and others. The question of race, of nation, of country have been the stock and trade of fascist demagogy for decades. Right-wing demagogues also charge defenders of a woman's right to choose abortion with tearing apart the family. What answer should class-conscious workers give to that? Should the family be torn apart? Should it be allowed to disintegrate? To answer this you have to go deeper than defending abortion rights as just a matter of democratic rights. 

Another theme rightists hammer away at is that of "country." We're citizens of this country, of the "American nation," we're told. Our government, they say, has a responsibility to defend the rights of our citizens to jobs ahead of those rights for immigrant workers from other countries. How do we answer that? 

These themes that fascists and right-wingers raise require deeper explanations - scientific explanations. They pose questions that can't just be set aside. It is not enough to simply say "we're for immigrant rights, Black rights, abortion rights," and so on in order to effectively aid others to see the dangers in and be able to effectively counter the rightist and fascist arguments. 

ln this presentation I'll take up the question of race. This afternoon there will be a class on immigrant rights and tomorrow the questions of the origin of women's oppression and the family will be discussed 

Origins of the concept of race 

Because racial prejudice is so deeply embedded in our society, it usually comes as a surprise to many people to learn that the concept of races is a social construct, and a recent one in human history. It did not emerge until the early days of capitalism, when the institution of chattel slavery was introduced. 

The myth of a Black race that is inferior was developed to rationalize the institution of enslavement of Blacks from Africa. 

The merchant capitalists of the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries needed massive quantities of labor power in the New World - more than they could get from just utilizing white indentured servants or from the indigenous populations of the Americas - of whom millions were wiped out in just a few years from diseases brought from Europe. 

ln Capital, Karl Marx explained what steps the early capitalists took to gather the necessary capital together to get their system off the ground, a process called primitive accumulation. ln Europe they drove peasants off the land and into factories in the newly emerging cities. This was done at a forced pace and with a great deal of human misery. Another central aspect of the primitive accumulation of capital was the introduction of the slave labor system: utilizing a form of labor from an earlier epoch of human society - that reached its most developed form in ancient Greece and Rome. They introduced it into the capitalist system where the slaves produced commodities for a capitalist market. 

First the Indians and then Blacks were enslaved. They justified this slave system on the basis that Blacks and Indians weren't Christians, that they were infidels. One of the big tasks of the Christian world was to convert non-Christian peoples to Christianity, thereby integrating them into and making them part of the western Christian world. 

This ideological rationalization didn't stand the test of time because as Indians and Blacks became Christians, it could no longer justify keeping them in bondage. 

In its place a more insidious and long-lasting edifice was built: the concept of race. Blacks were identified as a biologically inferior race - one naturally suited to slave labor. A whole different set of behavioral patterns were assigned to Blacks, such as temperament or ability to withstand hard work and heat, that suited them to slave labor. 

Black skin branded 

The emerging capitalist class needed a rationalization that made Blacks not only temporarily inferior but one with which they would remain inferior generation after generation. The concept of race supplied that. Skin color was the physical characteristic singled out to brand an entire part of the human race. Like ranchers would put a brand on cattle. 

It made it hard for Blacks to escape the slaveholder. Everyone in society knew that if you had black skin you were a slave, or could be enslaved. White indentured servants could escape and go off into the woods somewhere in the spacious unsettled lands of the Americas. For Blacks it was nearly impossible. 

A brand was placed on this sector of society by the British, the French, the Belgian, the Dutch, the Spanish, the Portuguese, and later the U.S. merchant and planting capitalists. 

All the capitalist politicians, the preachers, and the academicians rallied their efforts behind this justification. After Charles Darwin presented the theory of natural selection for the evolution of species in 1859 -  a gigantic conquest in scientific thinking - a raft of so-called scientists were brought in to give the notion of racial inferiority a ''scientific" veneer. This spurious effort attempted to prove that it was through natural selection and evolution that Blacks were closer to the apes in the evolutionary chain. 

Enormous battles have been waged by working people in the United States over the past 150 years, struggles that put an end to chattel slavery and brought down the system of legalized segregation that arose in its place. But the myth of race, constructed to justify an inhuman social system, still gets an echo today, as can be seen from the literature of The White Student Union and others. 

The myth of race, and the superiority of one race over another, has not only been used to justify slavery in the United States. It is the cornerstone of the apartheid system in South Africa, where the wealthy capitalist ruling class constructed a state of the "white race.'' Nelson Mandela accurately characterized this system as a "crime against humanity." After decades of brutal suppression of the struggle to bring down the hated system, the Pretoria regime has also been pushed into an historic retreat. In its place a new nation is being forged, one made up of all Blacks and whites who want to live in a democratic republic. As the African National Congress explains, they are fighting for a "democratic, nonracial, nonsexist South Africa.'' 

But some of you may be asking: wasn't there prejudice based on race or a concept of race in earlier periods of human history, especially where slavery existed? In ancient Greece, slavery was the main mode of production. The Greeks sent their armies to capture slaves far and wide. The people who weren't Greek were considered barbarians. But barbarians weren't a race. They came in many colors, cultures, backgrounds, and varying geographical areas. In the later stage of the Greek empire, under the reign of Alexander the Great, the Greeks aimed to make the peoples they conquered part of Greek culture. At the same time they sought to merge major features of other cultures with theirs and urged the intermarriage of people of different cultures and backgrounds. 

In Rome, another society in which slavery was the main mode of production, slavery was not based on the color of a person's skin either. There was no real conception of race at that time. Slaves in Rome came from the British Isles, Ethiopia, Persia, Greece, and elsewhere. They ranged from being artisans and poets to mine workers and field workers. 

Those from Britain were of more dubious value because they were more culturally backward. Cicero explained, for example that they didn't know much about art or music and weren't really good as slaves. 

It's worth reading Julius Caesar's account of his first invasion of Britain and his description of what he saw as the cultural level of the Britons. He says they were a strange people - they were terrifying - but they were odd. The men shaved all their hair off, except that on their head which was kept long. They went into battle virtually naked, with blue tattoos on their bodies. Caesar describes it as a terrifying sight.

Medieval society was similarly not divided on the basis of race. It was divided between Christians and infidels, Christians and Jews, and Christians and Muslims. 

Radical Reconstruction in the U.S. 

Coming back to the United States and the struggle against slavery, it is worthwhile to point out that even many abolitionists assumed that Blacks were inferior. They reasoned, though, that even an inferior people should not be enslaved and treated like livestock. The abolition of slavery was a result of the Second American Revolution, which was without question the most important revolution of the 19th century anywhere in the world. But it didn't bring an end to anti-Black racism and prejudice. 

There was a possibility that a major fight along this course could have been waged. After the defeat of the Confederacy in 1865, and under Radical Reconstruction, revolutionary popular governments were established in many of the former slave states. The most advanced ones were based on an alliance of poor whites and former Black slaves. Many Blacks participated in these governments and held leading elected offices as senators, congressmen, and state representatives - positions that even today they do not hold in some states. 

During Radical Reconstruction, the potential power of working people began to be felt. Blacks won self-confidence, broke down erroneous conceptions of what Blacks were capable of doing, and smashed racist barriers. Strides forward in areas such as public education were made. 

But Radical Reconstruction was smashed by the industrial capitalists. Blacks were never granted their central demand of 40 acres and a mule. At the same time tens of thousands of white settlers were getting tracts of land through the Homestead Act adopted in 1862. This denial of land to Blacks and the smashing of Reconstruction governments were major setbacks for the struggle against the oppression of Blacks and for the fight of all working people against exploitation. 

The capitalist class halted and then reversed Radical Reconstruction through a bloody reign of terror. They feared the rise in the labor movement and the massive protests of working farmers in the South and in the Midwest that were beginning to take place in the 1870s. 

Jim Crow segregation 

After a period of several decades of reaction a system of legal segregation was imposed in the 1890s and the early years of the 1900s in the former slave states throughout the South. It took some time between the smashing of Radical Reconstruction in the late 1870s and early 1880s and the codification of what became the Jim Crow system of legal segregation, a system backed by stark and extralegal terror. 

Establishing this system went hand in hand with the emergence of imperialism at the turn of the century. The depth and scope of the imposition of the segregation laws was part and parcel of, and drew sustenance and strength from, the development of imperialist domination of other countries by the U.S. ruling families. 

It went hand in hand with the need of the ruling class to use racism to justify imperialist oppression and conquest and the horrible atrocities that went along with it. The period was marked by imperialist wars, invasions, and subjugation of the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and other lands. The "white race'' was presented as having the burden of helping to civilize the ''inferior peoples." This was extended to all people of color. 

Pseudo-scientific arguments were developed to justify this oppression. These tried to show that there is a genetically superior white race. This ideology and so-called science were not only used to justify imperialist aggression, conquest, and oppression, but was also retained inside the imperialist countries. The concept of race that had developed with the origin of slavery was kept in place as an instrument of class exploitation inside the United States. It became deeply enmeshed in capitalist exploitation, primarily as a measure to divide working people. The intended effect was not just to squeeze proportionally more profits from the labor of workers with black skins, but to squeeze more from the working class as a whole. 

Do human features determine race? 

But the question of the existence of races isn't disproved by simply describing the origin and development of anti-Black prejudice and the institutionalization by capitalists of racial division. We have to step back and take a closer look at the structure of the ideology that has been set up. For instance, someone could argue that there is a biological basis to race. If there is, doesn't that affect behavior patterns and aren't there really some very distinct races with distinct biological foundations and distinct social behavior? It's important to get at the biological arguments because they are the foundations on which the sociological conceptions of race are built. 

The attempt to define biological races of human beings has almost always been done to show that some genetic basis exists for differences in human behavior. The reason that a larger percentage of Blacks than whites are poor and live on welfare, the argument goes, is due to character traits that are determined by their biological and genetic make-up. 

This view, in some form or fashion, is not uncommon. According to Tom David, people who aren't part of "white culture" aren't capable of understanding classical music. There are different levels of intelligence and capacity for culture. Blacks just aren't biologically quite up to it. 

The White Student Union says in its leaflet that people from each race have their own culture and they should stick to that culture. We should keep them separate, David says; it's natural. He states "each is separate" and he doesn't try to say that one is better than the other. But this is all malarkey. We know in this country that "separate but equal'' is the most transparent cover for maintaining the superiority of whites over Blacks and other people of color. 

The problem with trying to establish a biological criterion is that biologists and physical anthropologists have a difficult time coming up with any kind of objective criteria for defining races. What set of physical features can be used that would have any kind of genuine social meaning? Should it be eye color, color-blindness, skin color, hair color or texture, average height, average weight, length of the limbs, shape of the nose, brain size, or toe size? Those kinds of measurements have been taken as part of this pseudo-science. And applying them is not just a theoretical matter. For the past several decades the South African government has used such characteristics to define each and every new-born baby by "race," be it white, Indian, Colored, or African. 

With one or more of these characteristics they've come up with anywhere from three to scores of different races in the world. lt's hard to get a handle on it when you have so many different races. When I was in school, I think I was taught that there were five races. It was common for a long time for people to say that there were three: Caucasian, Negroid, and the Mongoloid. But of course if you have three main races where does that leave all the other people? What about Puerto Ricans? There are a lot of indigenous peoples in Mexico, a lot of immigrants from Europe, and a large number of people - probably the majority - who are a mixture of European and Indian. What race would Mexicans be? Negroid? Caucasian? Mongoloid? Mongrel? Are pygmies in Africa Negroid? Are Bushman in Africa? Are Aborigines in Australia? What race do the Sami people, who we know as Laplanders in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia come from? 

Well, that's why people started getting long lists of races. Melanesian, Polynesian, Arabs, and the list goes on. The fact is that variation is very great in the human species. Moreover it is not static. What might have been considered races 5000 years ago are different from the way the same person would construct them today. There have been migrations, intermarriage, and colonial settlements for thousands of years. And these have intensified in the last few centuries. So the complexion of the human race is going to keep changing. 

Scientific conclusions 

In the mid-19th century, even one of the most accomplished scientists, Louis Agassiz, argued that Blacks and whites are separate species. Other scientists argued that different races are sub-species of the human species. But in recent years an increasing number of biologists and physical anthropologists have rejected the notion that there is any meaningful definition of race. 

One of the most prominent is the anthropologist Ashley Montagu. In 1964 he edited a book called The Concept of Race, which contained a series of articles by anthropologists and biologists rejecting the concept of race. 

The same year he gave a series of lectures published in a book, The Idea of Race. In this volume he noted: "All human beings and all human groups differ from one another in one or more genes. That is a fact: and it is also a fact that when such individuals or groups are classed into arbitrary subdivisions called races, no matter what the criteria for such subdivisions may be, these classifications are arbitrary and correspond to nothing in reality. What is more important, such arbitrary subdivisions cannot be regarded as units of evolution either in space or in time. In the particular case of man, the 'races' that have been arbitrarily recognized are from a few to scores. What is obscured by such arbitrary definitions of 'race' are the facts. 

First, that the very idea of 'race' exists only in the mind of the definer, that it is an abstraction; second, that it in fact corresponds to nothing in reality; and third, that it obscures the real meaning of population variability. In short, the biological concept of 'race' is an obfuscating one.'' 

In the mid-1970s biologist and paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote an article entitled. "Why we should not name human races- a biological view." It is included in his book Ever Since Darwin. In rejecting the concept of race he noted that more sophisticated techniques of measuring variability in a species "show a continuous pattern of variation.'' 

In his book on Afro-American History, Malcolm X said, "And actually Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid - there's no such thing. These are so-called anthropological terms that were put together by anthropologists who were nothing but agents of the colonial powers, and they were purposely given that status, they were purposely given such scientific positions, in order that they could come up with definitions that would justify the European domination over the Africans and the Asians." 

Even Adolf Hitler, who wrote and spoke extensively about the virtues of the "Aryan race" and the inferior nature of other races admitted in 1930: "I know perfectly well that in the scientific sense there is no such thing as race. But a farmer can't get his breeding right without the concept of race. And I as a politician need a conception which enables the order that has hitherto existed on a historical basis to be abolished, and an entirely new and antihistoric order enforced and given an intellectual basis, and for this purpose the conception of race serves me well.'' 

This underlines the cynical character of much of fascist demagogy. 

We might face a totally different situation if it could be scientifically established that persons with particular physical characteristics were mentally or physically more limited than other humans. But this has never been established. All the measurements of brain size, IQ, and so on have not shown this. An excellent book by Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man, effectively debunks the notion that there is any relationship between brain size and intelligence, and IQ tests and intelligence, in human beings or that there is some pattern of brain size that proves Blacks are inferior. Racial differentiation only serves the purpose of justifying oppression and superexploitation. It is a fiction, a form of mystification. 

What's real and what isn't a mystification is that humanity with a Black skin and all people of color have been branded by capitalism as subject to oppression. This common oppression of Blacks in the United States has led to a common consciousness as a people facing the same struggles. The crushing of Radical Reconstruction and the subsequent struggle by Blacks against their oppression laid the basis for the forging of a nationality. 

Nationality is a political characterization. It describes a people who are fighting for political equality up to and including self-determination, a people struggling for full equality in relation to the state and society, and for rights such as equal opportunities for jobs, education, and housing. 

The fight for Black rights is progressive and the gains that have been won have aided all working people. There is no oppression of human beings based on white skin color. Most whites are workers or farmers and are exploited, but not because they are white. There is no oppressed white nationality and no fight for "white rights" that can be progressive. A struggle for white rights can only be a fight to preserve oppression of Blacks and other people of color. 

That's why there is no parallel between a Black student union and a white student union. One is fighting to extend equality, the other to maintain inequality. One should be given campus recognition the other should not. We reject the idea that the campus is not pan of the world or a part of the class struggle. Campus resources, such as those given to recognized student organizations, should be used to advance working-class interests, not to oppose those interests. 

Now, does affirmative action take away the rights of workers who are white: does it come at their expense? This is an important question because if it did we would have to oppose it. Affirmative action is the recognition that special steps are necessary to win equal opportunities for Blacks.

A vigorous fight for this will benefit all workers-Blacks, whites, and Latinos - because it draws them closer together and it is the road to unity in political struggle. That's why the question of affirmative action is ultimately a class question, not a race question. 

Karl Marx, in the first volume of Capital, wrote, "In the United States of America, every independent workers' movement was paralyzed as long as slavery disfigured a part of the republic. Labor in a white skin can't emancipate itself where it is branded in a black skin." 

He was talking about the period just after slavery had been abolished and was hopeful that the branding of labor in a Black skin was going to be ended. But as I have explained, it hasn't and Marx's statement still rings true today. Notice that Marx starts with labor, with the working class. He talks about labor that has been branded, not about race. 

Now finally I'd like to conclude with a word on the antihate ordinances. Here in St. Paul, we have an antihate ordinance and it's being tested right now before the U.S. Supreme Court. It was adopted back in 1982. There are similar laws in other cities and some states.

Their alleged aim is to generally outlaw expressions of hate. Some, like the one here, have amendments outlawing certain actions such as cross burning. In general, though, the measures are against hate. Hatred by whom, against whom, is left open. 

And that's a problem. Because there are different kinds of hate. I hate the capitalist ruling class. If you really start to think about what they've done to the world in the last century, the people they've slaughtered, you can really work yourself into a hate. 

It's important to do that from time to time because it helps give you some revolutionary energy. Malcolm X and others expressed a real hatred of this racist system. 

Such expressions by our class are considered "hate" under this law. The law doesn't have any class content. An equal sign is put between the hatred by Blacks of racism and the hatred expressed by white racists when they burn crosses on people's front yards. That's one problem. 

The second, related problem is that it outlaws expression and ideas. It not only addresses actions, but speech. You don't need an antihate law to outlaw cross burning. To terrorize .somebody by burning a cross on their yard is against the law right now. You don't need some special anti-hate law to make it illegal. It's against civil rights laws, it's against trespass laws, and it should be outlawed. You shouldn't be able to go burn crosses on somebody's yard to scare the hell out of them and drive them out of the neighborhood. 

Any kind of racist intimidation should be against the law. A gang of racist hooligans shouldn't be able to circle a couple of Blacks on the street and start yelling at them. 

That's not freedom of speech but threatening behavior, violent behavior. But expressions of "hatred" in newspapers or public meetings are prohibited under the antihate ordinances as well. I could probably be indicted for what I've just said about the ruling class, if the authorities were to choose to do so. 

As with all kinds of laws like this that restrict freedom of speech and expression, the authorities may use them to go after some racists or antilabor hooligans. But that's all cover for going after the real targets: militant unionists, Black rights fighters, communists, and other fighters for social justice. 

Chris Nisan, a leader of the Young Socialist Alliance here in the Twin Cities, has been doing some work on these laws for a Militant article. One study he found showed that the majority of the people who have been found guilty of violating antihate codes adopted on many college campuses over the last several years have been Blacks. This was usually for opposing Zionism. By opposing the Zionist capitalist government in Israel, you can be charged with being anti-Semitic. 

These are things working people should oppose. Moreover, it gets off the crucial foundation of who is responsible for oppression. Is it some individual who is expressing some hateful ideas? Is that the problem we face in the United States? It gets away from the fact that there is a political and economic system that is responsible for racism, brought it into the world, and benefits from it. That is what must be opposed and fought against. 

Clarity on all these questions and explaining them as clearly as we can, helps to give us more confidence that racial prejudice is not some innate part of human nature. Instead, it has a clear historical origin and is rooted in a specific social system. It benefits a distinct class, the billionaire ruling families. Looking at this crucial issue historically and scientifically helps us see the solid basis that exists for uniting working people of all backgrounds to overturn capitalist rule and thereby lay the basis for ending the scourge of racism once and for all.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Portugal, 1975: The Leninist strategy of party-building versus get-rich-quick opportunism

The Test of Lines in the Portuguese Revolution

Intercontinental Press

March 22, 1976

[The Leninist Trotskyist Faction at the February meeting of the International Executive Committee of the Fourth International, received the following vote: 17 for, 45 against, 0 abstentions.]

I The Lesson of the Attempted Coup of November 25, 1975

The attempted coup of November 25, 1975, marked a turning point in the Portuguese revolution that has had wide repercussions both domestically and internationally.

The result of the adventure was to strengthen the hand of the capitalist government. Since crushing the putsch, the regime has stepped up its offensive against the working class. While it is proceeding cautiously out of fear of provoking a new upsurge, the government aims at restricting and pushing back the economic and political gains made by the Portuguese masses since the April 1974coup that overthrew the Salazarist dictatorship.

While some of the details of the November 25 events still remain unknown, the picture has become clearer with the publication of various reports.

The Government Sets a Trap

There is ample evidence that the military regime calculated it could provoke the "leftist" officers into an adventurous action.

Leading figures in the government and the Socialist party had been issuing warnings against a "leftist" coup attempt in the period leading up to November 25.The government publicly announced certain contingency plans to deal with such an eventuality, such as moving the center of communications to the North. The government moves were facilitated by the course of the Revolutionary party of the Proletariat (PRP) and the Movement of the Socialist Left (MES), which had adopted line of "insurrection." The PRP actually publicized its calls for an insurrection in the immediate future in campaign fashion.

In the week before the putsch, the government was in a weak position, but the key ministers feigned still greater weakness, claiming they could not govern because they were not backed sufficiently by the military command of the Lisbon region. The government went on "strike" to demand the removal of Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho as commander of the Lisbon region.

Their charges against Carvalho stemmed from the construction workers' strike in early November. The construction workers had surrounded the Palacio de Sao Bento, trapping Premier Azevedo inside until the government granted their demands for higher wages. This massive, militant demonstration was the first action on that scale to challenge the government's austerity program. It expressed deepening determination in the workingclass to defend its interests against the capitalist government. The danger from the regime's point of view was that the construction workers' victory could encourage emulation by other powerful sectors of the workers.

Carvalho refused to send troops to clear the construction workers away from the Palacio. His personal reasons for doing so may have had something to do with his attempts to refurbish his "leftist" image. Indeed, he had by then apparently allied himself with the Communist party. But more important was the fact that any attempt to send radicalized troops against the massive construction workers' action could have failed. It could have triggered a reaction in wider layers of the workingclass and among the soldiers. The government did not act against Carvalho at the time because it was interested in provoking an adventure of the type of November25, not a confrontation with the workingclass itself.

The Council of the Revolution, the military body that wields real power in Portugal, meeting the night of November 24-25, ordered Carvalho dismissed as the Lisbon regional commander. The regime evidently thought that this would be viewed as a provocation by the Communist party, the centrist groups of the "far left," and the "leftist" officers. The removal of Carvalho signified a further reduction in the power of such officers, that is, those who sought to base themselves in part on support from the CP and the centrists.

The "leftist" officers fell into the government trap. They had apparently made some sort of plan in anticipation of the action by the Council of the Revolution, and moved on the night of November 24-25 to put it into effect.

The Communist party issued a call for a mobilization against the "shift to the right." However, while its actual involvement in the planning and execution of the putsch remains unclear, it certainly did not mobilize the forces it leads for a concerted attempt at taking power. The PRP, MES, and other groups of the self-styled revolutionary left were apparently taken by surprise. According to their own version of the events, the PRP "joined the movement" only after they had heard the calls for mobilization from the CP and had received an appeal from a delegation of the "leftist" military men.

During the night, paratroopers under orders from their first sergeants seized four air force bases. Many of the first sergeants were known as pro-CP by the ranks. The paratroopers' spokesmen demanded that Carvalho be retained and that Gen. Jose Morais de Silva be removed from the air force command.

The paratroopers, up until a few weeks before, had been known as among the most conservative units in the armed forces. They were among the units that General Splnola had relied on for his abortive coup attempt on March 11, 1975.These troops had been used by the government to blow up the transmitters of Radio Renascenga on November 7. The rank-and-file paratroopers reacted against being used this way and claimed that the government had tricked them. When General Morais e Silva addressed an assembly of paratroopers at the Tancos base attempting to justify the Radio Renascenga affair and threatened the paratroopers with demobilization, they expelled their officers.

When the paratroopers seized the four bases, the privates at first knew nothing of the coup attempt. They thought they were staging a military action to demand the removal of Morais e Silva as head of the air force. Once mobilized, they went along with the attempt.

After the paratroopers' action began, some units under "leftist" control took action. The Lisbon military police took control of several buildings. The Lisbon Light Artillery Regiment on the outskirts of the city set up armored vehicles and recoilless rifles to guard the northern approaches to the city. Carvalho's military security command took control of the national radio station.

Pro-CP officers of the disbanded Fifth Division marched into the television stations. Along with them was the former head of the national television network under the previous regime headed by Vasco Gonçalves. He announced to the station workers that "People's Power is giving the orders now."

The Trap Shuts

The move by these pro-CP and "far left" officers was what the government had anticipated and was waiting for. The military Council of the Revolution, with the support of the SP leadership, moved swiftly to close their trap. Using commandos that had been tested in a number of situations for their reliability, the regime quickly put down the challenge, isolated the paratroopers, and waited for their surrender. "People's Power" wasn't able to give very many orders after all.

The workers had basically nothing to do with the whole affair. They observed from the sidelines.

The CP, seeing how things were going and never intending a confrontation with the main force of the military, reversed engines, called off the mobilization of its followers and the unions it leads, and issued appeals for "serenity." The government was able to present its emergency measures against freedom of the press, assembly, and other democratic rights as a defense of "democracy" against a putsch of adventurers.

The regime moved quickly to strike other blows for capitalist "law and order." A state of siege was proclaimed for six days, with the military empowered to make summary arrests. Military courts were established to deal with "crimes against the public order." Meetings and demonstrations were prohibited, and censorship imposed.

The government announced a wage freeze that among other things annulled the victory of the construction workers on the wage front. Political parties were banned from the armed forces in a drive to restore traditional hierarchical discipline.

The government moved to purge CP influence in the nationalized press.

Capitalist Offensive

With a single sharp blow, the government was able to regain the initiative against the workers. The workers' rising determination to fight for their basic needs, as evidenced in the construction workers' demonstration, was cut short. On December 20, Azevedo called for "voluntary and conscious acceptance of sacrifices." In a television speech three days later he warned that "unrealistic wage claims and overemployment had caused many enterprises to close." Since it came to power in April 1974, under all the various provisional governments, the military with the support of its CP and SP allies has been trying to force the masses to pay for the capitalist economic crisis. At one point this objective was cloaked in the demagogic call to win the "battle for production." Now Azevedo stated the same objective more openly, talking about "overemployment" at a time when 13 percent of the work force was unemployed.

The government ended subsidies on essential goods, with a resultant jump in prices, while it clamped down on wages. Another aspect of the government's offensive was manifested January 9 when it announced that the land-reform program would not be applied at all in the northern two-thirds of Portugal, nor in parts of the South.

The regime also launched new attacks on the rights of assembly and protest. To test its course, it chose the occasion of a January 1 demonstration in Oporto called to demand the release of 140 persons arrested in the wake on the November 25 adventure.

Members of the Republican National Guard opened fire on the crowd of 3,000, killing three and wounding many others, one of whom later died. A similar demonstration in Lisbon was broken up by commandos driving armored cars and firing over the heads of the crowd. On January 13 the ruling Council of the Revolution proposed a plan that would ensure continued military rule in Portugal until 1980.

Rightist forces have been emboldened to organize more openly. In late January, the regime released from prison key hangmen of the Salazarist regime.

Blow to Workers

It is the workers who have suffered most from the November 25 adventure of the pro-CP and "far left" officers. The blame for the setback lies primarily with the leaderships of the Socialist and Communist parties. The leaders of the forces that consider themselves the "revolutionary left" also share a large part of the responsibility.

The "leftist" officers who carried out the adventure were not demanding a workers government, to replace the capitalist regime. They demanded only the retention of the command of a "leftist" officer, Carvalho, and the dismissal of Morais eSilva. The logic of their challenge, if successful, would have been to reconstitute the Council of the Revolution and the government, putting different officers, with ties to the CP, in key positions. This would amount to returning to a situation similar to the one during the fifth provisional government last summer under Gonçalves, in which the CP played the role of favored junior partner to the Armed Forces Movement (MFA).

It was not an attempt to establish a government that excluded bourgeois political forces such as the MFA and the Democratic People's party (PPD—PartidoPopular Democratico), a government that would represent the interests of the working class and poor peasants.

The November 25 adventure, therefore, did not represent an attempt to go beyond the policy of class collaborationism followed by both the Stalinists and the Social Democrats. Both have sought to keep the workers they influence subordinated to the military, while they vie with each other to prove how indispensable they are to the Portuguese capitalist class.

The Armed Forces Movement

Faced with the upsurge of the Portuguese masses following the April 1974 overthrow of the Salazarist dictatorship the Portuguese capitalist class found itself in a weak political position. Virtually the only force to emerge from the old regime with credibility among the masses was the Armed Forces Movement. The MFA was the political arm of the rebellious officer caste.

From the beginning, the aim of the MFA was not to overthrow capitalism and begin the construction of socialism. Quite the opposite.

In bonapartist fashion, the MFA cultivated the image of being above the classes. As the radicalization deepened both in the civilian population and in the armed forces, the MFA was compelled to use more "socialist" and "anti-imperialist" rhetoric to retain support. It combined attempts at selective repression with concessions and demagogic promises to the masses.

At each stage there have been sharp divisions and conflicts within the MFA over whether to rely on the carrot or the stick. Sections of the MFA became identified with either the Socialist or Communist parties, or the bourgeois parties. Officers like the president, General Costa Gomes, succeeded in maintaining an appearance of being "above it all" while using all these forces and shifting among them. Throughout, the MFA remained a capitalist political instrument.

Arrogating to itself the role of bonapartist arbiter of the class struggles, the MFA itself found it had to resort to arbitration more and more to settle its own internal differences. The struggles within the MFA always carried an implicit threat of violence from the contending factions. There were even two right-wing coup attempts (September 1974 and March 1975) and now an attempted "leftist" coup. More and more power has been concentrated in the hands of the Council of the Revolution. Today, all key decisions are made by the council, without convoking the 200 or so officers of the MFA general assembly.

The real power in Portugal has remained in the hands of the military. The various provisional governments were set up mainly to draw in the major working-class parties, the SP and the CP, as collaborators. The policy of the leaders of both parties has been to fall in with this scheme and practice coalitionism with the bourgeois military, blocking the thrust of the workers toward forming their own government.

One of the objectives of the military regime was to divide the working class, in order to progressively demoralize and demobilize the workers and dispel the threat of united action, which could lead toward a socialist revolution.

To this end, the MFA worked to set the Communist and Socialist parties against each other. The policy of both vying to be the favored junior partner with the military played right into the hands of the MFA.

At first, the military leaned more on the CP. The Stalinists had an effective apparatus, which they put at the service of the MFA. The CP became the labor policemen for the military, portraying the "battle for production" as in the interests of the workers and socialism.

In return, as part of an attack on the independence of the unions, the regime supported the Stalinists' position in the labor movement. For example, the Trade Union Unity Law passed in early 1975 froze CP control of the union structure. Before the elections to the Constituent Assembly last April, both the SP and CP signed a "pact" with the military, guaranteeing that military rule would continue no matter what the outcome of the balloting. In the vote, the SP and CP together got a majority. The vote for the bourgeois parties was a distinct minority. The SP received the highest vote of any party, 38 percent. The election results reflected the desire of the masses for socialism and constituted a mandate to push in that direction.

In response to the setback suffered by the capitalist forces in the election, the MFA launched a demagogic campaign against the Constituent Assembly. The MFA began to promulgate a program for what they called "people's power," which would supposedly be a higher form of democracy than the Constituent Assembly. This plan called for the creation of "people's assemblies" under the control of the MFA. The plan itself was never implemented, to any major extent.

At the same time, the MFA sought to deepen the division in the working class by denouncing the SP, charging it with being the "main danger" to socialism. The Stalinists became supporters and organizers of this campaign. They passed off their low vote relative to the SP as simply an example of the evil results to be expected from "bourgeois democracy" and attacked the Constituent Assembly in favor of the MFA's fake "people's power" plan. They even resurrected for a time the old Stalinist line of the early 1930s that the SP was "social fascist" or something very much like it.

Attack on Democratic Rights

The CP gave full support to the take-over of the newspaper Republica from its Socialist party editors. Then it unsuccessfully attempted, along with the MFA and the "far left," to block mass mobilizations called by the SP to protest the government's restrictions on democratic rights, including the take-over of its newspaper. The popularity of the Stalinists had already dropped, as was shown by its vote in the Constituent Assembly elections, about 13 percent of the total. In large measure, this could be attributed to its support for speedup in the plants and its bureaucratic methods in the labor movement. As it stepped up its campaign against the SP and against the democratic rights of the majority of workers who supported the SP, its popularity dropped further. And as this happened, the CP began to rely more and more on the MFA to defend its positions in the labor movement. Its stance was that progress toward socialism should be strictly controlled by a minority—by the CP in alliance with the MFA—guarding against any interference from the "moderate majority" of workers who supported the SP.

The CP's campaign for the "battle for production" and against democratic rights helped pave the way for restoration of one of the props of capitalist rule—the fear of the masses that socialism constitutes a threat to their rights and subjugation to tyranny.

The Stalinist campaign played into the hands of reactionary forces. For the first time since the April 1974 overturn, rightists at the end of July and in August were able to mobilize mobs that attacked and burned CP headquarters, especially in the North. The SP leaders said they were against these reactionary attacks but did not mobilize against them.

The SP leadership made capital of the issue handed to them. Radicalized workers and layers of the petty bourgeoisie turned increasingly toward the SP as a result of the Stalinist campaign. In July, the SP resigned from the government. It did this not out of revolutionary desire to defend the democratic rights of the masses, under attack by a capitalist government, or to fight for a class break with the MFA and for a united front of the workers in defense of their rights and interests against the capitalists.

The SP leadership's goal was to further its own campaign to displace the CP as the dominant workers party in the capitalist coalition government. In pursuit of this aim, the Social Democrats deepened the division in the working class.

Under the impact of the mobilizations of SP workers and supporters, the MFA decided to make a shift. In early September, officers most closely identified with the CP, such as the premier, General Gonçalves, were dumped from the ruling Council of the Revolution, and officers favoring at least a temporary alliance with the SP were elevated. Along with this change in the composition of the top MFA body, a new—the sixth—provisional government of collaboration with Portuguese capital was installed. The CP was reduced to a token role, with the major role of junior partner of the military being filled by the SP.

The Sixth Provisional Government

The new government, taking advantage of the deep division in the working class, made fresh efforts to implement the military's austerity program. Like its predecessor, it called for capitalist law and order in the factories and barracks.

But the continuing combatively of the working class hindered their plan. In early September, there were sizable demonstrations of soldiers organized by the Soldiers United Will Win (SUV). The SUV was organized independently of MFA control. While embracing only a small minority of soldiers, the SUV reflected the continuing radicalization among the rank and file, pointing toward an increasing breakdown of military discipline.

The militant strike by construction workers in November indicated the growing readiness of the workers to fight for their interest.

The CP leadership gave support to one degree or another to the SUV demonstrations, the action by the construction workers, and the mass mobilization November 16 that was called by the Lisbon workers commissions under CP leadership.

The CP's oppositional stance, like that of the SP in the previous stage, provided openings for the masses. Its support to the construction workers, for example, ran directly counter to its policy, up through the fifth government, of opposing such struggles in the interests of the "battle for production."

But its support to mobilizations against the sixth provisional government did not signal any break with its policy of subordination to the military. During these actions, the Stalinists did not call for a class break with all bourgeois forces, including the MFA. On the contrary, they called for a return of Vasco Gonçalves, a return in essence to the fifth provisional government.

Thus the November 25 adventure occurred within the framework of the rivalry between the CP and SP leaders as to which could better sell out the workers to the military regime.

The FUR Also Bears Responsibility

The leaderships of the groups that call themselves the "revolutionary left" share responsibility with the Stalinists and Social Democrats for the setback that the November 25 events and their aftermath have signified for the workers.

The largest of these groups are the PRP and the MES. But far from being the "revolutionary left," they are centrist formations. They are repelled by the opportunism of the Stalinists and Social Democrats. But they do not counterpose a Marxist program based on class-struggle principles to the opportunism of the leaders of the Communist and Socialist parties. Instead they take a super "leftist" stance, project sectarian schemas and adventurous actions as shortcuts through which they hope to bypass the political problem of winning the majority of the working class from support of the CP and SP. Brushing aside the principles of class independence, they are open to class collaborationist schemas dressed up in "leftist" phrases. Thus they oscillate between, and sometimes combine, rank opportunism and wild adventurism. The one element that remains constant in their politics is sectarian contempt for the majority of workers who still follow the CP or SP. They place their own concerns above the needs of the proletariat and its allies.

The PRP and MES politically dominated the Front for Revolutionary Unity (FUR) that was formed last August. The CP was briefly in this front as part of its campaign to save the fifth government. Although the Portuguese Democratic Movement (MDP) was a CP front organization, it remained in the FUR. In addition to the PRP, MES and other centrist groups, the Internationalist Communist League (LCI), the sympathizing organization of the Fourth International, was a member of the FUR. The FUR was formed on the opportunist basis of critical support to the fifth provisional government, and support to the Copcon plan for building "people's power" committees under MFA control. The LCI, while critical of the support offered by the FUR to a capitalist government, held that this support should not be permitted to bar participating in the FUR itself.

The November 25 attempted coup discredited the entire "far left," and led to the breakup of the FUR, showing that from the revolutionary point of view, there was nothing to be gained from participating in the FUR.

The reasons the centrists advanced for critically supporting the fifth provisional government were different from those of the Stalinists. Their view was that a "left" MFA government of "revolutionary unity" should be set up in place of the sixth government. This government would then turn power over to the "workers organized in a structure that culminates in a National People's Assembly," as the PRP put it in the November 21 issue of its paper.

The MES declared about the same time,

"We must create the conditions for the formation of a government of revolutionary unity that holds power until the creation of the National People's Assembly."

This schema amounts to placing faith in a "left" capitalist government to turn power over to the workers.

To understand this reactionary Utopia, we have to examine the concepts of the centrists on building "soviets."

These groups presented a false picture of the real extent of the formation of Soviets in Portugal.

The workers commissions that appeared in the period following the downfall of the Salazarist dictatorship foreshadowed the development of council-type organizations if the upsurge was not diverted or blocked politically. The workers commissions were formed in response to the need for economic organizations representing all the workers in an enterprise, a need the workers felt acutely because of the fragmentation of the trade-union-type organizations of workers under the dictatorship. Up to now these bodies, which emerged in most of the factories, have generally remained in the framework of organizations of economic struggle and have not functioned as Soviets. That is, they do not as a matter of course discuss and act on the broad social and political questions facing the workingclass and its allies.

The workers commissions have been further limited and weakened by the division in the working class. Progress along the road of developing the potential of the workers commissions to become broad factory councils pointing toward Soviets hinges on the success of building united-front actions and the inclusion of broad social and political questions on the agenda as legitimate concerns of these commissions.

Some of the centrist groups have set up their own "soviets." These are little more than caucuses of their own supporters. The neighborhood commissions are even more fragmented—sometimes even giving rise to several commissions in the same neighborhood—each dominated by a different tendency.

The most direct challenge to the authority of the bourgeois government to yet appear in Portugal were the assemblies and committees of soldiers and sailors that sprang up at certain times in various units. However, they did not become standing committees on a national scale. Thus it is inaccurate to say that the stage of dual power has been reached in Portugal. Organs of a soviet or council type, embracing the masses of 'workers, and beginning to function as centers of authority and power on all economic and social questions, parallel to and in competition with the government, have not emerged in Portugal up to now.

The revolutionary phrasemongers made propaganda for "building Soviets" the axis of their work while at the same time advancing a political line that only deepened the divisions in the working class and blocked the road toward united workers' actions and united-front action committees that could lead toward the creation of genuine council-type organizations. This led the PRP to set up its own sectarian "soviets," and made the centrists easy game for the MFA's "people's power" demagogy.

When the MFA announced its "people's power" plan during the summer, the centrist groups thought it had come over to their position on building "soviets." On July 16, the centrists, ultralefts, and Maoists organized a demonstration in support of "people's power" that marched on the Constituent Assembly under the slogan, "MFA—People's Power" and "Dissolve the Constituent Assembly."

In this campaign of support to the MFA, the centrists played the role of "leftist" cat's-paws for the Stalinists. The majority of the Portuguese toilers, for whom the elections to the Constituent Assembly were the first and only national elections they had actually been allowed to participate in for five decades, could only interpret this campaign as directed against their interests and rights.

By counterposing "MFA—People's Power" to the Constituent Assembly they not only reinforced illusions that the MFA would lead the struggle for socialism. They presented the idea that workers democracy—socialist democracy—is contradictory to defending and extending democratic rights that the workers require in struggling to overthrow capitalism. The Socialist party workers could only interpret the campaign to abolish the Constituent Assembly as being aimed against them, because their party had won a strong plurality in the elections.

The "revolutionary contingent" of centrist, Maoist, and ultraleft groups supported a Stalinist campaign that resulted in strengthening the hand of the reactionary and bourgeois forces generally, as well as the class-collaborationist leadership of the SP.

These sectarians failed in general to understand the relation between bourgeois democracy, workers democracy, and socialist revolution. To them, Lenin's injunction that the proletarian revolution "means a gigantic, world-historic extension of democracy, its transformation from falsehood into truth, the liberation of humanity from the shackles of capital, which distorts and truncates any, even the most 'democratic' and republican, bourgeois democracy" remains a mystery. (Collected Works, vol. 28, p. 371, emphasis in original.)

They joined the Stalinist campaign against democratic rights. They supported an attack on the real rights of a workers party under a bourgeois regime in the Republica case, claiming that the take-over represented the road to workers control of production. They called for the capitalist military regime to abolish the Constituent Assembly, as if that would advance the march to soviet democracy.

And they placed confidence in the ability and willingness of at least a wing of the MFA to lead the way to socialism. They overlooked the fact that the transition from a bourgeois regime to one of workers democracy takes place through a revolution that dismantles the capitalist state apparatus and replaces it with the new power of a workers state, and that it is a fatal illusion to think this step will be carried out by a section of the capitalist state apparatus, no matter how much its representatives talk of "people's power." The groups that dominated the FUR combined this rank opportunism with extreme sectarianism and adventurism. They attacked the Socialist party as a "phase in the transition to fascism," and called for an insurrection against the sixth provisional government.

In early November, the MES wrote:

"Thus, the Social Democratic forces serve the advance of the fascist forces; consequently, we cannot separate our slogan 'Death to the ELP [Exrcito de Libertacao Portuguesa—Portuguese Liberation Army, a right-wing terrorist group] and those who support it' from the slogan, 'Down with Social Democracy.' That, comrades, is why the MES says—and this is ever more correct and appears ever more clearly—that the Social Democracy is a phase in the transition to fascism."

This sectarian campaign, breathing contempt of the working class, cast further light on just what the small centrist groups meant by "soviets." Their concept has nothing whatever to do with real Soviets, which arise out of united-front struggle committees.

Their campaign was to "centralize" commissions and committees that, far from having won the allegiance of the majority of workers, were often seen by them as organizations leading the fight to deny them their democratic rights. Their campaign was part of a political offensive that blocked the development of united-front struggles against the capitalist government and cut across the formation of genuine workers councils to organize and generalize these struggles.

Soviets or workers councils represent the highest form of the united front—they seek to embrace all the workers of all tendencies, lead them in action against the class enemy, and provide an arena where all the tendencies in the workers movement can try to win a majority to their proposals.

But the "revolutionary" new leftists of the FUR had renounced the united front in practice through their sectarian campaign against the majority of the workers that support the Socialist party.

Real Soviets can be built only on the basis of fighting to unite the working class in struggle around concrete issues and demands, not by calling for the "centralization" of organizations that the majority of workers have no confidence in.


The FUR leaders have an ultraleft, sectarian conception of a minority revolution. They had consigned the majority of workers to the extreme right. The British supporters of the PRP expressed this view openly. In a recent press statement, the British International Socialists declared,

"We completely disagree with those, like [the French] Lutte Ouvriere, who pin their hopes on cooperation—on whatever level—with the Portuguese Socialist Party. It is Mario Scares who is attempting to organise gangs of storm-troopers ... to drown the revolution in blood. It is the PS leadership and membership, who cheer the blowing up of the Radio Renascenca transmitter—symbol of workers' control."

The petty-bourgeois revolutionists of the FUR do not believe that the fundamental job in Portugal remains that of winning the majority of workers from the policy of the class-collaborationist leaders of the SPand CP and from illusions in the MFA. They reject the Marxist view that this must be accomplished before the question of power can be placed on the agenda. They believe that the determined action of a "militant minority" can spark the majority into action or bring it to give tacit support to their "insurrection."

Related to this is an incorrect view of the role of the soldiers. The PRP and MES saw the radicalization that developed among the soldiers and that deepened in October and November as a sufficient basis for revolution. If the revolutionary soldiers made a bold move, the workers would support them.

This was especially so, they believed, since, in the impressionistic view of the FUR leaders, the government was powerless. On November 10 PRP leader Isabel doCarmo declared at a press conference: "For us, at this moment, there is no solution except armed insurrection. As all history shows, the bourgeoisie unleashes a civil war every time it wants to defend its interests. Fortunately, the forces of the right possess no army in Portugal." The centrists reversed the real relation between the workers and soldiers in a genuine revolution. In his History of the Russian Revolution, Trotsky took issue with those who "portray Bolshevism as a soldier movement."

Trotsky answers, "Fundamental historic facts were here ignored: the fact that the proletariat was the first to come over to the Bolsheviks; that the Petrograd workers were showing the road to the workers of all countries; that the garrison and front much longer than the workers remained bulwarks of compromisism; that the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks created all kinds of privileges for the soldier at the expense of the worker in the soviet system, struggled against the arming of the workers and incited the soldiers against them; that the break in the troops was brought about only by the influence of workers; that at the decisive moment the leadership of the soldiers was in the hands of the workers."

In the aftermath of the coup attempt, the centrists criticized the treachery of the CP. The CP did turn its back on the forces it helped set in motion on November 25, which compounds its criminal role in the whole affair. But the FUR muddleheads themselves believed that the CP was capable of following a revolutionary course, and they helped foster illusions in the Stalinists.

In early November, the MES wrote: "It is not the 'revolutionary left' that is being dragged in the wake of the Communist party, but the Communist party that, since giving support to the COPCON document systematically at decisive moments of the struggle, has been dragged in the wake of the revolutionary left."

II. Balance Sheet on the Line of the IMT

Throughout the middle of 1975 right up to the eve of the November 25 adventure, the leadership of the International Majority Tendency held that the main danger to the Portuguese revolution was the "democratic counterrevolution." Their schema was summed up by Comrade Charles Michaloux in the July 31 issue of Inprecor. Michaloux stated that the MFA could "no longer adequately play" the role of reestablishing "a coherent, effective instrument of political authority and the initial elements of a functioning repressive apparatus" because its "authority has been sapped within both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat."

"Under these conditions," he continued, "the bourgeoisie has opted in an initial phase for the reconstruction of the bourgeois order through parliamentary legal channels. …. Such is the sense of the offensive of Mario Soares, who puts forward the Constituent Assembly in counterposition not to a nonexistent 'military dictatorship,' but instead (and explicitly) to 'anarchy' and the 'absence of government authority,' which would lead to 'communist dictatorship' if it continued. "The whole Portuguese and international bourgeoisie is supporting this maneuver."

The IMT schema was wrong on every count. The MFA was not abandoned by the "whole Portuguese and international bourgeoisie" in favor of a "democratic counterrevolution" based on the Constituent Assembly. On the contrary, the MFA was and remains the "essential political instrument of the Portuguese imperialist bourgeoisie," as the Leninist Trotskyist Faction insisted in its August 1975 statement, "The Key Issues in the Portuguese Revolution."

The sixth provisional government is not based on the Constituent Assembly. This government was not set up through "parliamentary legal channels." The Constituent Assembly has not replaced the military government—it has remained hamstrung by the pact-program. The Council of the Revolution of the MFA remains the real power, and this power is hardly "nonexistent." It is in fact carrying out an offensive against the working class in the wake of the November 25 adventure.

In addition to pointing out that the MFA was the essential political instrument of the Portuguese capitalist class in the face of the upsurge of the masses, the LTF pinpointed the class collaborationism of the Stalinists and Social Democrats, expressed in the concrete situation in Portugal as subordination to the MFA. The LTF noted that this was central to the ability of the MFA to play its bonapartist role for the bourgeoisie.

The IMT virtually ignored this central political obstacle to the independent mobilization of the working class and the necessity of mounting a campaign to overcome it. Thus they failed to see that a major element in the betrayal of the Social Democrats during the summer was their subordination to the MFA—not a "democratic counterrevolution" to replace the MFA with a government based on the Constituent Assembly.

The schema of the "democratic counterrevolution" was complemented by the conception of the existence of "two camps," the "camp" of the "democratic counterrevolution" and the "camp" of those who oppose this danger. Since the entire world bourgeoisie was placed in the camp of the "democratic counterrevolution," the other camp was that of the working class. Thus the two-camp schema was presented as a "class analysis."

The "military hierarchy, the SP leadership, and the Portuguese and international bourgeoisie were all lined up in one camp, while a growing section of the Portuguese workers, soldiers, and poor peasants stood in the opposing camp," Comrades Mandel, Maitan, and Frank wrote in "Revolution and Counterrevolution in Portugal." (See Intercontinental Press, December 15, 1975,p. 1769.)

On the governmental level they saw a setback for the working-class camp: "The Soares-spearheaded offensive was successful on the government level. The Gonçalves government was brought down. "In which camp did the IMT place the Stalinists? Where did they place the Gonçalves government? The Gonçalves wing of the MFA? The Copcon wing of the MFA? Since these forces were opposed to the "Soares-spearheaded offensive" they must have been in the camp of the "workers, soldiers, and poor peasants."

The "two-camps" schema is not a "class analysis." It was a substitute for class analysis of the political events in Portugal and for arriving at an independent class line. When the Stalinists and the fifth provisional government opened an attack on the democratic rights of the Socialist party, the IMT failed to see that this was an attack on the working class itself. They opposed a forthright campaign to defend the democratic rights of the Socialist party while opposing the class-collaborationist perspectives of the SP leadership. They did not see the necessity to oppose the Stalinist-supported campaign of the capitalist military government against the SP, while also opposing the Social Democrats' counterrevolutionary objectives. They were against participating in the big SP demonstrations of July 18 and 19 in defense of its democratic rights; they favored the counterdemonstrations organized by the Stalinists and the "far left," which were correctly seen by the majority of workers as demonstrations directed against their rights.

They failed to see that the masses seized the opening provided by the SP's oppositional stance in the July 18 and 19 demonstrations, to fight for their own interests in spite of the SP leadership. The IMT made no distinction between such demonstrations and those called by the SP to support the "group of nine." In place of seeking to find an opening for revolutionary Marxists to intervene with their own program in the situation created by the SP's oppositional stance, the IMT supported demonstrations that had as their main objective the defense of the fifth provisional government, such as the August 20 demonstration in Lisbon.

Judging reality from the simplistic standpoint of "two camps," the IMT deduced that a political position based on the interests of the workers, independent of either wing of the MFA and of the Stalinists and the Social Democrats, really meant standing in the "camp" of the bourgeoisie. That is how they characterized the LTF's refusal to line up with them in the "camp" of the "left" MFA officers.

The IMT failure to project an independent class line led to other deviations.

They counterposed the Constituent Assembly to "building Soviets," losing sight of the fact that the masses need to learn through their own experience the superiority of soviet forms of organization over any forms of bourgeois democracy. The IMT rejected projecting a class line in relation to the Constituent Assembly, out of fear of fostering "illusions" in it and thus aiding the "democratic counterrevolution." In the elections for the Constituent Assembly in which the SP and CP received a majority, they rejected utilizing the favorable outcome to propagandize for a workers and peasants government by demanding that the SP and CP break their pact-program with the bourgeois MFA.

Comrades Mandel, Maitan, and Frank rejected the demand for an SP-CP government, as a concretization of the demand for class unity and independence at the governmental level, on the grounds that "the masses cannot and will not understand the slogan 'SP-CP government' in any other way than as a government based on the Constituent Assembly, that is, the reconstruction of the bourgeois state apparatus, of bourgeois 'law and order.' That is precisely the immediate goal of bourgeois counterrevolution; we must oppose it with all our strength." ("Revolution and Counterrevolution in Portugal.")Here we find a pithy expression of revolutionary phrasemongering. The bourgeois state apparatus has practically collapsed. The "immediate goal" of the bourgeois counterrevolution is to reconstruct it through the "Constituent Assembly." This bourgeois goal must be opposed "with all our strength."

Everything is turned on its head. Instead of beginning with the real needs of the masses of workers to break with the MFA and all bourgeois political formations, the IMT starts with a plan which might possibly be entertained by the bourgeoisie, and deduces from this possibility that it is dangerous to call for an SPCP government as part of the fight against the popular frontism of the CP and SP leaderships.

"What we must call for," Comrades Mandel, Maitan, and Frank wrote, "is a workers and peasants government based on a national workers assembly." The demand for an SP-CP government erects "an additional stumbling block on the road to the formation of the national workers assembly (or national people's assembly). . . ." They say that the slogan for an SP-CP government could become applicable "if a national workers assembly is actually convened and has an SP-CP majority; that is, in the event of a situation similar to the one in Russia after the convening of the First All-Russian Soviet Congress. In that case, the call for an SPCP government would dovetail with the call for soviet power, as it did in Russia in April-July 1917, and would be entirely correct."

This makes the formation of Soviets, which do not yet exist, and the convocation of a national workers assembly, a prerequisite for fighting the popular-frontist policies of the Stalinists and Social Democrats on the governmental level. The key obstacle to the independent mobilization of the working class is left unchallenged, and the revolutionary Marxists are left without an answer to one of the central problems of the Portuguese revolution.

In replying to Comrades Foley, Hansen, and Novack, the authors of "Revolution and Counterrevolution in Portugal" wrote: "We do not agree with them when they say that 'the key to building workers power is political' if what they mean by 'building workers power' is the development of a situation of generalized dual power and not the actual conquest of power, which comes later. Far from being able to arise only out of 'national political questions 'and from agitation around slogans like 'SP-CP government' or 'For a sovereign Constituent Assembly,' the real workers councils are now arising and will continue to arise around all the issues of immediate mass struggles. These struggles combine specific political issues—like the fight against fascist conspiracies, the defense of the political rights and activities of the soldiers, and the fight against government imposed censorship—with issues that are also largely economic and social. The political synthesis will come at the end, not at the beginning."  

We agree that Soviets can come into being out of the development of united front action committees fighting around issues of immediate concern to the masses well before the majority of the workers break from the popular frontism of the Stalinists and Social Democrats. But the key to advancing united-front actions and struggles is political. Comrades Mandel, Maitan, and Frank hold the position that revolutionary Marxists must wait for a situation of dual power to arise before they can demand that the parties supported by the great bulk of the Portuguese workers break politically from the bourgeoisie and embark upon a struggle for a workers and peasants government. This innovation is false and pernicious.

The Transitional Program points out that the "central task of the Fourth International consists in freeing the proletariat from the old leadership, whose conservatism is in complete contradiction to the catastrophic eruptions of disintegrating capitalism and represents the chief obstacle to historical progress. The chief accusation which the Fourth International advances against the traditional organizations of the proletariat is the fact that they do not wish to tear themselves away from the political semi-corpse of the bourgeoisie. Under these conditions the demand, systematically addressed to the old leadership: 'Break with the Bourgeoisie, take the power!' is an extremely important weapon for exposing the treacherous character of the parties and organizations of the Second, Third, and Amsterdam Internationals. . . .

"Of all parties and organizations which base themselves on the workers and peasants and speak in their name we demand that they break politically from the bourgeoisie and enter upon the road of struggle for the workers' and farmers' government. On this road we promise them full support against capitalist reaction. At the same time we indefatigably develop agitation around those transitional demands which should in our opinion form the program of the 'workers' and farmers' government'"

While fighting for the policy of the united front in the workers commissions, the unions, in action committees, etc., the Trotskyists in Portugal from the beginning must center their work against the class collaborationism of the "traditional organizations of the proletariat," and that requires a governmental slogan directed toward the two big workers parties. Far from contradicting our united-front policy, which goes in the direction of building organs of workers power, the demand for an SP-CP government furthers that policy. In 1922, in writing about the need for the new French Communist party to raise the demand for a workers government in relation to the Social Democracy, Trotsky explained, "Right now, it provides a general perspective for the whole struggle for immediate demands, provides a general perspective for the struggle not only for Communist workers, but for the broad masses that have not yet come over to Communism, by linking them, by uniting them with the Communists through the unifying effect of a common task. This formula is the capstone of the policy of the United Front." ("The Case for a Workers Government in France" in The Workers and Farmers Government, Education for Socialists, p. 46.)

Raising the demand for an SP-CP government in Portugal today is essential to success in carrying out the task of building a revolutionary party based on a class-struggle program, in opposition to the class collaborationism of all the other political tendencies.

The idea that raising the demand for an SP-CP government sets up a "stumbling block" to building Soviets because it would "create illusions" in the Constituent Assembly must be classified as simon-pure ultraleft sectarianism. Even when there were real Soviets in Russia, the Bolsheviks did not counterpose them to the slogan calling for a Constituent Assembly. They took a class-struggle attitude toward the question of the Constituent Assembly, defending it against the bourgeoisie and the compromisers. Revolutionary realism demands that only when a revolutionary soviet government actually arises in the course of the real struggle do those who follow the Bolsheviks counterpose it to a bourgeois government based on a Constituent Assembly.

It is worth recalling what the policy of the Russian revolutionaries was on this point: "But the Bolsheviks also, although finding no way out on the road of formal democracy, had not yet renounced the idea of the Constituent Assembly. Moreover, they could not do this without abandoning revolutionary realism. Whether the future course of events would create the conditions for a complete victory of the proletariat, could not with absolute certainty be foreseen. But outside of the dictatorship of the Soviets, and up until this dictatorship, the Constituent Assembly was to be the highest conquest of the revolution. Exactly as the Bolsheviks defended the compromisist Soviets and the democratic municipalities against Kornilov, so they were ready to defend the Constituent Assembly against the attempts of the bourgeoisie."(Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution.)

In the tradition of the Bolsheviks, the LTF favored calling on the Socialist and Communist parties to take power on the basis of the mandate given to them in the Constituent Assembly elections. We favored advancing the slogan as a step toward establishment of a soviet-type government. We were, of course, completely opposed to placing any political confidence whatsoever in the Constituent Assembly as a bourgeois institution.

The IMT took as the axis of its position the so-called strategy of building dual power. The "next step forward," according to Comrades Mandel, Maitan, and Frank, is "to generalize, coordinate, and centralize the organs of workers power, and not to transmit power to the Constituent Assembly."

In this sentence, the IMT leaders seem to be saying that organs of workers power actually exist. Elsewhere they talk of "embryos" of such organs, and assert that dual power does not yet exist in Portugal. In any case, in the stage preceding the November 25 attempted coup, the IMT portrayed the situation as one in which dual power was rapidly coming into existence. For example, an article in the July 25 issue of Rouge declared: "Inside the MFA itself differences are deepening. The right wing, which for the time being has taken refuge in support of the policies of the SP, is striving to bring to heel the progressive elements of the MFA who are being swept along by the torrent of revolution and who are looking confusedly for a new base of power in grass-roots committees. The key to the present situation lies in the rise of these committees. As emerging organs of dual power, they are bringing into being the highest unity of the working class, the workers united front."

In this campaign, the IMT confused very different elements. They lumped together the very important development of the workers commissions, and the soldiers and sailors committees that appeared in certain units at different times, with the sectarian "soviets" set up by the centrist groups as well as with the "people's power" plan publicized by the MFA.

The workers commissions were embryonic factory councils. The soldiers and sailors committees were embryonic councils in the armed forces. They pointed toward soviet-type formations. Progress toward building real council-type organizations depended upon a correct political course. Part of the correct political course was to explain that the sectarian "soviets" set up by supporters of the centrist groups were obstacles to building real soviets embracing wide circles of the workers in a genuine united front. Another essential in a correct political course was to expose the MFA people's power plan as an obstacle to building Soviets. Still another essential was to defend the Constituent Assembly uncompromisingly against the attempts of the capitalist government to wipe it out.

The IMT did the opposite. They portrayed the sectarian "soviets" as the real thing, as among those "organs of workers power" to be "generalized" and "coordinated" and "centralized." The July 17 LaGauche said in an editorial: "Already our comrades of the LCI have established a united front with the left socialists of the MES which popularizes and initiates the establishment, generalization, and coordination of such councils." 

But real soviets cannot be created merely through the initiative of small groups. They must grow out of real united-front struggles, action committees, etc., which small groups can help initiate, if they have a correct line. The "soviets" launched by the centrists—exemplified by the proliferation of neighborhood commissions—were never embryos. They were born dead.

The real basis of the IMT's view that dual power was flowering in Portugal was its hope that the capitalist government's plan to build grass-roots support committees could be utilized for building soviets. The same editorial in La Gauche stated: "The recent plan of the 'MFA-People' calls for the generalized establishment of committees of the masses (with the aim of maintaining and expanding the social base of the MFA in the barracks, the factories, and the neighborhoods). This appeal furnishes the basis for the entire toiling population to organize and arm itself in councils of workers, peasants, neighborhood councils, and soldiers councils, INDEPENDENT of the capitalist state apparatus."

The quotation from the July 25 Rouge above was in the same vein. In the same issue of Rouge an article declared: "Today the Popular Assemblies are multiplying, following the decision of the Assembly of the MFA. The next stage could be the calling of a National Popular Assembly, a decisive step toward the creation of a workers state in Portugal."

In the July 18 Rouge Comrade Michaloux wrote: "….in Portugal, the governmental power is vacillating, while the power of the rank and file is taking shape. It already has a name: People's Assemblies, which will elect a National Assembly of the workers and soldiers. The National Assembly will create a Workers and Peasants Government…."

The Red Weekly, Was Tun, and the other papers hewing to the IMT line voiced the same conclusion: The capitalist government's plan was not an obstacle to building soviets, but opened the road tothem. The IMT became, willy-nilly, purveyors of the MFA's demagogy.

The real purpose of the MFA plan was to deepen the division in the working class. The fake "people's power" scheme was part of the fifth provisional government's campaign against the Socialist party and the Constituent Assembly. By supporting this plan, the IMT's "strategy of building dual power" helped deepen the division in the working class to the benefit of the bourgeoisie. The majority of radicalized workers and petty bourgeoisie saw the plan as directed against their rights. Thus the IMT's campaign was indistinguishable from that of the centrists and ultralefts, and made building the united front and therefore real soviets more difficult. The embryonic factory councils and the soldiers and sailors committees could be strengthened, and action committees and united-front formations created, pointing toward the formation of Soviets, only by advancing a united-front policy along class-struggle lines, that is, along the lines indicated in the Transitional Program, utilizing immediate, democratic, and transitional demands on up to the slogan for Soviets.

The IMT's campaign to "generalize, coordinate, and centralize the organs of workers power" did not follow the method of the Transitional Program. The IMT tore the slogan for soviets out of context with the rest of the program, that is, tried to implement it without tying it to the living political struggle through a class-struggle program. This led to supporting the sectarian campaigns of the centrists and ultralefts to build their own "soviets" and, finally, to supporting a demagogic ploy of a capitalist regime that helped block the formation of Soviets. The slogan for soviets crowns the Transitional Program; it does not substitute for it.

The IMT acted as if it believed that if the major political questions could be ignored, Soviets could be built even perhaps by the MFA (which they nevertheless held to be powerless). The CP workers and "moderate" SP workers would swarm into these exemplary bodies once they were set up, and the objective political obstacles could be bypassed.

Errors of the PRT

The comrades of the Portuguese Revolutionary Workers party (PRT) changed a previously correct position on the bourgeois nature of the MFA in a "self-criticism" printed on July 10. Their self-criticism included the statement: "It is the MFA that is introducing another organization, another power, into the bourgeois armed forces, a dual power." In practice, the PRT moved away from the implications of its position on the MFA, refusing to join the FUR because of its popular frontist platform. But they never explicitly corrected their error.

At the same time, the PRT comrades have, like the IMT, called for the "centralization" of embryos of dual power as a central axis of their work. The PRT claims that a situation of "atomized dual power" exists in Portugal. But the very term "atomized dual power" is self-contradictory. Dual power refers to the existence of two class powers, parallel and competing. While the bourgeoisie certainly has its power, its government (which is not atomized), there is as yet no parallel power of the workers. Power cannot be "atomized." It is by its nature centralized, to the extent it is power. "Atomized dual power" is power so pulverized it is more likely "powerless dual power."

The Turn of the 'Ninth World Congress'

The origin of the IMT's line on Portugal can be traced back to the ultraleft turn taken by the majority of delegates at the Ninth World Congress. This turn was codified for Europe in the document, "Building Revolutionary Parties in Capitalist Europe."

The IMT's European resolution considered three "tactics" for building the party in the present period. One was entryism sui generis. Another was "massive organic growth." The document rejected these two "tactics" in favor of a third. The third "tactic" was described as "winning hegemony" within the "new mass vanguard" in order to "transform it, making it an adequate instrument for recomposing the organized workers movement." In order to carry out this "tactic," the document advised "organizing national political campaigns on carefully chosen issues that correspond to the concerns of the mass vanguard, do not run against the current of mass struggles, and offer a chance for demonstrating a capacity for effective initiative. . . ."

The minority of the lEC, which later formed the Leninist Trotskyist Tendency, voted for a counterreport to the IMT's European resolution given by Comrade Mary-Alice Waters at the December 1972 lEC meeting. This counterreport warned that the line projected by the IMT resolution departed from the method of the Transitional Program:

"In other words, the document proposed that the sections of the Fourth International should determine what actions they will initiate by starting with the 'concerns of the vanguard' and then making sure such actions do not contradict the struggles of the masses!

"What is wrong with such a guideline?

"The starting point for revolutionary Marxists is not our own subjective concerns or the immediate outlook of the 'vanguard.' We start with what is objectively in the interests of the broadest working masses and what must be done to advance the class struggle nationally and internationally. We never start with the vanguard and then try to make its interests and concerns compatible with the needs of the working class. We do just the opposite. We start with the objective needs of the masses. We then mobilize the broadest forces we are capable of reaching and influencing and lead them in struggle to win concrete demands that correspond both to the needs and consciousness of the broad masses, and that can move the struggle forward and thereby heighten their level of consciousness. We employ methods of struggle that increase the confidence of the masses in themselves and teach them to rely on their own independent power.

"The difference between these two starting points—the concerns of the vanguard or the objective needs of the working masses—is neither minor nor hairsplitting. From the two different starting points flow two divergent courses of action. One tends toward maximalist demands and so-called 'militant' actions that presumably reflect the level of consciousness of the 'vanguard.' In reality they are adaptations to its political backwardness. The other is firmly based on the method of the Transitional Program, which aims at mobilizing the masses in struggle, whatever their level of consciousness, and moving them forward toward the socialist revolution.

"Even when we are not yet able to mobilize the working masses behind our own banner (or the banner of a united front in which we participate), even though only the 'vanguard' is following us, we still organize that 'vanguard' large or small, in actions that speak to the needs and consciousness of the masses, not the concerns of the 'vanguard.' We do not proceed according to a two-stage theory—today we win the vanguard; tomorrow the working class. The two aspects of our intervention are totally interrelated and proceed simultaneously. To win recruits to our sections from vanguard elements we must convince them of the correctness of our program for the working masses."

The warning made by the lEC minority that the IMT line foreshadowed adaptation to the political line of the "new mass vanguard" was unfortunately borne out in Portugal. The "new mass vanguard" (also dubbed the "far left," or the "revolutionary left") turned out to be centrist or ultraleft groups. The IMT line was dovetailed to fit the current course of these heterogeneous formations, although the IMT's formal adherence to the Trotskyist program restrained them from falling into the worst opportunist or sectarian errors.

To "generalize, coordinate, and centralize the organs of workers power," as used by the IMT in Portugal, was not an example of advancing the slogan for Soviets as promulgated by the Transitional Program, but a reduction of that slogan to a sectarian level. The IMT campaign was cut to fit the "concerns" of the centrists. The IMT theme of "minority initiatives" focused on supporting the small "soviets" initiated by the centrists and ultralefts. It was reflected in their support to the July16 "vanguard" action called by the fake "soviets" to demand that the bourgeois government dissolve the Constituent Assembly.

The IMT conception of "minority violence" or "exemplary actions" by a small group, which fitted in with the turn taken by the majority of delegates at the Ninth World Congress toward raising guerrilla warfare from a tactic to a strategy in Latin America, and which was codified at the Tenth World Congress in the IMT document on armed struggle, accorded with the calls of the centrists and ultralefts for a minority "insurrection" on the eve of the November 25 putsch. The IMT differentiated itself from these particular calls (although much more vigorously after November 25 than before), but remained supporters of the FUR while the major components of that unprincipled bloc played into the hands of the capitalist regime with their dangerous, petty-bourgeois demands for an "insurrection." The IMT conception of a "democratic counterrevolution" and a dangerous Constituent Assembly that had to he blocked corresponded with the campaign of the petty-bourgeois FUR itself in tow to the Stalinists. It was this "vanguard" that counterposed "soviets" to the Constituent Assembly, saw the struggle as one between "two camps," believed that the existing capitalist military government was no real danger, and fostered illusions in the "left" MFA officers and Stalinists. It was this "vanguard" that was opposed to calling for a CP-SP government.

They called for expelling the SP from all areas, and linked the Social Democracy to fascism. The IMT's refusal to call for a CP-SP government was an adaptation to this "concern." It was the centrists and ultralefts in Portugal who did not believe that it was necessary or possible to win the majority of workers from the class collaborationism of their Stalinist and Social Democratic leaders. The IMT reflected that position. Comrades Mandel, Maitan, and Frank even contemptuously referred to the "moderate" majority of the working class, as opposed to the "revolutionary" vanguard composed of petty-bourgeois centrist and ultraleft groups.

For whatever reason, purposeful or otherwise, the IMT's European resolution and their writing on Portugal remain vague in their political description of the "vanguard."

We may speak of a general social vanguard, such as the vanguard of the working class and the role it plays in the transition to socialism.

Marxists stress the vanguard role that certain layers play at times within the working class as a whole—youth, women, oppressed nationalities, etc.

By virtue of their struggles certain sections of the working class come to the fore and inspire other sections. The construction workers in November, for example, took the lead in the fight against the government's austerity program although they were part of the supposed "moderate majority."

The word "vanguard" is used in a different sense to refer to the political vanguard of the working class. The political vanguard can only be those organized on the basis of the revolutionary Marxist program.

The IMT vagueness as to what "vanguard" they are talking about serves to mask their political adaptation to the centrists and ultralefts whose "revolutionary" phrases and tactics attract them. This blurs the line that must be drawn between centrists and adventurers and the program of Trotskyism.

The IMT line of transforming the "new mass vanguard" into an "adequate instrument for recomposing the organized workers movement," or, as Comrade Mandel put it in his report on the IMT European document at the 1972 lEC meeting, to "regroup the vanguard as a serious striking force within the workers movement to lead the masses in a global confrontation with capitalism that has the possibility of winning" was put to the test with the formation of the FUR, which in practice regrouped or "recomposed" the "vanguard."

By joining the People's United Front (FUP), as the FUR was initially called before the CP pulled out, the LCI carried out the IMT line, albeit in an extreme fashion. The IMT criticized the LCI for signing the platform of the FUP, but supported the LCI's remaining in the FUP and then the FUR. The IMT supported the notion that achieving a united front with the Stalinists was an important accomplishment even though this was done on the basis of supporting the CP's class-collaborationist program and sectarian objectives. Thus it viewed the FUP's and the fur's popular-frontist program —and the IMT did, of course, differentiate itself from that platform—as secondary to the positive achievement of the "regroupment" itself.

The critical support given by the IMT to the FUR was a clear expression of adaptationism to the centrist and ultraleft groups. With the departure of the CP, the FUR issued a manifesto that included denunciation of the Constituent Assembly elections as part of a "reactionary bourgeois offensive," and demanded the "dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and exposing its bourgeois character." The manifesto linked the Social Democracy to fascism and called for purging "all the fascist and Social Democratic putschists from the armed forces." It defended the Fifth Division of the General Staff. It espoused the reactionary nationalism of an imperialist country. In practice, the groups dominant in the FUR launched a sectarian and adventurous campaign, coupled with a class-collaborationist conception of forming a "left" MFA government. By supporting this formation, however critically, the IMT helped block the development of the political vanguard based on the class struggle program of revolutionary Marxism. The turn taken by the majority of delegates at the Ninth World Congress raised a tactic—guerrilla warfare—to a strategy, replacing the Leninist strategy of party building along the method indicated in the Transitional Program. This ultraleft deviation from a Marxist strategy was deepened and extended, and then codified by the IMT in its European perspectives document and other documents adopted by the IMT at the Tenth World Congress.

The payoff came on November 25. That debacle also constituted a debacle for the IMT's European resolution. This was the verdict of a developing proletarian revolution. In practice, the IMT's ultraleft deviation, which signaled a turn away from the method and strategy of the Transitional Program, led the IMT to adapt to centrism and ultraleftism in Portugal. This in turn meant adapting to the Stalinists, and finally to the MFA itself.

III. The Strategic Line of March of the Portuguese Workers

Since November 25, the military has sought to assert its authority and to make as many inroads on the gains of the workers as it can. How far this process will go depends upon the response of the masses. The workers have not been defeated, nor have their organizations been dismantled. As the demonstration of the construction workers showed, there is deep opposition to the MFA's policy of forcing the working class to bear the brunt of the soaring inflation and economic slump. The workers are cautious and confused in the aftermath of the coup attempt. It remains to be seen how and when they will regather their forces for a new rise of struggles capable of upsetting the plans of the regime to reestablish capitalist law and order.

The SP and CP leaderships have renewed their pledge of loyalty to the military. The sectarian schemes and leftist phrasemongering of the FUR have been exposed as capable only of leading to adventures and demoralization for the Portuguese workers.

In the forefront of a revolutionary strategy in Portugal must be the campaign to mobilize the workers and their allies in united actions in defense of their basic interests, their economic gains, and their democratic rights. This united front is necessary to overcome the bitter sectarian divisions in the working class, to strengthen the defense of the workers against the growing threat from the bonapartist regime, and to prepare the ground for a new wave of upsurge of the toiling masses.

The revolutionary process has not reached the point where forms of workers power have palpably emerged. The upsurge has led at this point only to the appearance of sporadic and scattered mass initiatives, factory committees, and elements of workers control. These developments point the way toward the emergence of broader action committees and eventually dual power. Progress along this road hinges on a correct political course. 

The fundamental political task is to break the workers from the class-collaborationist course of the Stalinists and Social Democrats, which signifies subordination to the Armed Forces Movement. What must be asserted is the right of the workers to put a government in power that represents and fights for their interests, a workers and peasants government.

The development of the revolutionary struggle of the workers and their allies in Portugal toward a socialist victory requires defending the immediate economic interests and democratic rights of the masses in combination with demands and transitional organizational steps going beyond the economic and political structure of capitalism. The strategic line of march can be summarized as follows:

1 Defense of the gains of the workers and other layers of the masses against the attempts by the capitalist government to make the workers bear the cost of the economic stagnation and inflation. 

This includes fighting for an emergency government program for jobs, for a reduction in the hours of work without any reduction in pay to spread the available work, and for escalator provisions in union contracts to protect the workers from capitalist-caused inflation.

The struggle of the construction workers illustrates both the need for a determined fight on this front and the potential of mobilizing workers in struggle on these issues.

A radical agrarian reform must be demanded to meet the needs of the small peasants, as well as to promote state assisted cooperatives and state farms in the area of extensive farming. The need for state support for individual small peasants has become especially acute, since the procrastination and betrayals of the capitalist government, supported by the CP and SP leaderships, have become identified with "socialism," pushing many of the small farmers into the hands of the rightwing.

In addition, special attention is needed to defend and extend the rights and gains won by women and by the youth.

2. Defense of democratic rights in the armed forces. The MFA is attempting to use the adventurist coup attempt of November 25 as an excuse for clamping down on all democratic rights of the soldiers and sailors. Sectarian and putschist propaganda must be rejected. The rank-and-file soldiers need to organize in defense of their civil rights. The broad masses must be educated that citizens in uniform retain every basic right to organize themselves independently of the military hierarchy so as to be able to participate effectively in the political life of the country.

3. Defense of the democratic rights of the citizen-soldiers is closely linked to the defense of democratic rights and democratic decision-making by the masses. The political rights of most of the workers organizations have come under attack at various times since April 1974, including the rights of both mass reformist parties. Now the MFA is using the adventurist attempted coup to strike additional blows against democratic rights. The principle of solidarity of the entire workers movement against such attacks must he vigorously advanced.

4. Opposition to any attempts by the capitalist government to intervene in the affairs of the former colonies.

5. Defense of the elementary interests of the workers. The workers commissions and nuclei of industrial unions that have developed are still unable to mount an effective defense of the elementary interests of the workers on a national scale. To overcome this defect, revolutionists must propagate and agitate for industrial unions, for a united and democratic union structure free of governmental interference such as that represented by the Trade Union Unity Law. The struggle to transform the workers commissions into united front-type action committees that can mobilize and represent the workers and poor masses in the industrial centers combines closely with other revolutionary tasks.

6. Extension of the nationalization of capitalist property. The expropriation of the key industries is a prerequisite for the planned economy of socialism.

7. The fight for workers control under present conditions also fits in with these tasks. In many instances the workers have already asserted control to protect their specific interests in the face of government assaults, employer sabotage, and mounting unemployment and inflation. Workers control is necessary to obtain the economic information required to defend jobs, to prevent the flight of capital, to fight inflation, and to administer a sliding scale of wages and hours.

Workers control cannot serve its purpose unless workers make clear that they do not accept any responsibility for the functioning of the economy until they have real power over it. This means fighting against the "workers control" promulgated by the military government and supported by the CP and SP leaderships, which amounts to workers accepting in a disciplined way the capitalists' austerity program.

8. Advancement of the struggle for a workers and peasants government. On the political level, the workers in their great majority look for leadership to the Socialist party, the Communist party, and the Intersindical, the trade-union federation. At present no alternative to these mass organizations has credibility among large layers of workers. Nor can any political alternative develop until the masses learn in practice the limitations of the current class-collaborationist leaderships of these organizations.

Concretely, at the current stage, the fight for a workers and peasants government includes calling upon the Socialist and Communist parties, as the representatives of the Portuguese workers and the majority of the Portuguese people, to break with the pact-program that codified their capitulation to the military junta. It means calling for the establishment of a new government without any bourgeois forces or parties through the CP and SP leaderships exercising their majority in the Constituent Assembly and appealing to the workers, peasants, and rank and file of the armed forces to mobilize in support of it. It means, as the Transitional Program states, "At the same time we indefatigably develop agitation around those transitional demands which should in our opinion form the program of the 'workers' and farmers' government.'"

The Intersindical should remain independent of any government, including a workers and peasants government, since the unions must be the direct defenders of the economic interests of the workers. The only national politically representative body chosen by the workers and masses in Portugal up to now is the Constituent Assembly, in which the workers parties hold an absolute majority. The fight for a workers and peasants government cannot be waged without defending popular sovereignty and all democratic gains, against efforts by the ruling class to restrict them. Concretely, this means defending the Constituent Assembly against attempts by the military junta to abolish it. And it means demanding that the SP and CP repudiate their pact with the MFA, which subjected the Constituent Assembly and their majority in it to the control of the military.

As a fundamental part of a united-front campaign of struggle, the demand that the two mass reformist parties of the workingclass form a workers and peasants government is an essential part of the process of advancing a working-class governmental alternative to the military regime and exposing the incapacity of these parties to provide such an alternative.

Incipient organs of workers power can arise only out of united mass struggles of the working class along these lines.

Workers councils or soviet forms cannot be imposed on the workers.

Advancing the independent organization of the working class is necessary so that the proletariat can meet the tasks of the class struggle in this period of crisis and win in a confrontation with the bourgeoisie. This involves pushing for broader and broader forms of workers organizations, industrial union structure, action committees, and democratic factory committees that can unify and mobilize the broad masses of the workers in the industrial zones and draw in other exploited layers. This process would culminate in regional and national congresses of workers organizations that can adopt general policies and lead the working masses in taking decisive initiatives.

The arming of the masses to defend their rights against attacks by reactionaries likewise cannot be accomplished separately from building united-front struggles along these lines. No minority, no matter how heroic, can substitute itself for the masses in the decisive showdown. This strategic line of march begins with the immediate and elementary needs of the working class, and leads toward the establishment of a workers and peasants government and the organization of Soviets as the basis of a workers state.

The traitorous policies of the SP and CP leaderships and the sectarian schemas of the centrists and ultralefts have taken a severe toll. A Marxist course based on the independent organization and mobilization of the working masses assumes ever greater importance. The construction of a revolutionary party to provide correct leadership becomes more and more urgent. Such a party does not yet exist in Portugal. It must be created in the heat of the struggle itself.

But even a small nucleus of revolutionists, armed with a correct program and strategy, can make swift gains. By fighting along the basic axes indicated, such a nucleus can play a decisive role in building the revolutionary party necessary to resolve the crisis of leadership in the Portuguese revolution. □,35