Portugal: For a Workers’ Offensive against Austerity!

By Johannes Wiener, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 17.12.2015, www.thecommunists.net


The recently held elections in Portugal mark a distinct shift to the left in the balance of class-forces. The bourgeois PSD and CDS lost around 12% compared with the previous elections. On the other hand, the left-wing Bloco de Esquerda (BE) (a coalition of right-centrist forces) doubled its electoral strength to more than 10% of the votes cast and is now the third largest party in Parliament. The electoral front Coligação Democrática Unitária – a coalition of the Stalinist, left-reformist Partido Comunista Português (PCP) and the Green Party (Partido Ecologista "os Verdes", PEV) – also slightly increased its votes, gaining 8.25% of the ballots. The social-democratic party (Partido Socialista, PS), which verbally ran on an anti-austerity platform, also increased its strength and garnered 32% of the parliamentary vote.


This means that, together, the bourgeois and petty bourgeois workers‘ parties now constitute a majority in the Parliament of Portugal. The reason for this is very simple: the popular masses oppose the austerity-policies of the neo-liberal bourgeois parties.


Reactionary Attempts to Install a Right-Wing Bourgeois Government


Going into the elections, the bloc of the two openly neo-liberal bourgeois parties was arithmetically the relatively strongest parliamentary force. This led to their impudent attempt to continue the hated austerity government of Passos Coelho, despite the majority of the population voted against this. A particular reactionary role was also played by Portugal’s president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, who called upon Coelho to form a government, dubbing as “an attack on democracy” the electorate’s daring to oppose the austerity policy dictated by Brussels as well as opposing the will of the imperialist-terrorist NATO alliance. Silva said: “In 40 years of democracy, no government in Portugal has ever depended on the support of anti-European forces, (…) (which) in addition (want) the dissolution of NATO.”


The Creation of the “Left” Government


Pressure from below, from the workers and popular masses, as well as the provocative pro-austerity policy of the reactionary bourgeois parties led the majority of the members of Parliament (belonging to the PS, BE, and the CDU) to vote against the governmental program of Coelho, preventing him from taking power.


Instead, the social-democratic PS formed a government which promised to oppose the austerity attacks and to defend social gains of the Portuguese masses. This resulting government of Antonio Costa has the parliamentary support of the Bloco de Esquerda and the Coligação Democrática Unitária which did not join the government’s coalition.


A Bourgeois Workers‘ Government


The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) maintains that the fall of the right-wing bourgeois government reflected the growing radicalization of workers and youth in southern Europe. This radicalization is the basis for the European working class’ finding a way out of austerity and the nationalist nightmare, growing militarism and the erosion of democratic rights.


Naturally, the new government of Antonio Costa is neither a socialist or authentically left government. It is a capitalist government, albeit one which rests on bourgeois and petty bourgeois workers’ parties, which was elected as a result of massive popular sentiment against the austerity policy. This government is what the Communist International (before it degenerated under the rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy) called a “bourgeois workers’ government.


Which Way Forward?


Revolutionaries in Portugal should defend this government against any attack instigated by the reactionary-bourgeois parties, the bureaucracy in Brussels, the President, or the state apparatus.


However, the strategic goal of revolutionaries must be help the workers and poor to overcome their illusions in these left-reformist parties and to break them away from such leaderships. This is the only way to fight for a true proletarian government based on workers’ and popular councils and militias.


In the present situation it is crucial that revolutionaries organize the masses independently from the reformist or left reformist leaders and place pressure on the government via independent workers’ and popular mobilizations. It is clearly obvious that the masses of the workers and poor still harbor illusions regarding the leadership of the social democrats and left reformists of Bloco de Esquerda and in the PCP.


On the one hand, revolutionaries must instructively explain to the advanced workers why they will sooner or later be betrayed by the reformist bureaucrats who have promised to end austerity, to say nothing about building a socialist society. On the other hand, we have to place demands before the leaders of the reformist parties in order to put them to the test in the eyes of the working class and to help the latter overcome their illusions by means of their own practical experience. If the government attempts to capitulate to the EU and its policy of austerity, revolutionaries must mobilize to stop them by calling for militant strikes, leading up to a general strike. Another very important task is to fight for the full equality of migrants and to oppose every form of racism and discrimination against them! This is particularly important for Portugal which for centuries exploited and brutally subjugated its colonies.


The RCIT suggests that revolutionaries in Portugal call on the “left” government to undertake the following:


* Abrogate all austerity-measures of the previous government!


* Immediately create a public works program, under the control of the trade unions, to provide jobs for all unemployed. This should be financed entirely by taxation on the super-rich!


* Nationalize the ports and big industries under workers’ control!


* Nationalize all banks and amalgamate them into a single central bank under workers’ control!


* Immediately withdraw from NATO! No people should be guilty of participating in this brutal terrorist organization!


In addition, we maintain that Portugal, as a semi-colonial country, should leave the EU. However, this tactic should be combined with the struggle for a real workers’ government. Such a government would not play footsy with the EU and NATO, but rather should declare class war on them! An authentic workers’ government would base itself on workers’ and popular councils (soviets), like those rudimentarily established in 1974/75, as well as on militias of our class. A real workers’ government would immediately try to internationalize the struggle to other European and North African countries.


There is no solution to austerity but the struggle for a European revolution against the EU and for the creation of revolutionary workers’ governments through socialist revolution. To fight for revolutionary workers’ governments in Europe and around the world we need new revolutionary workers parties! The RCIT is dedicated to building such parties as part of the future 5th International and to collaborating with revolutionaries in Portugal to build such a revolutionary workers’ party there and in every other country around the world.


* For a revolutionary workers’ government!


* Down with the imperialist EU! For the United Socialist States of Europe!


* For a revolutionary workers’ party in Portugal as part of a new workers’ International!