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AUSTRALIAN
MARXIST
REVIEW

Journal of the Communist Party of Australia

ISSUE 55March 2012

Portuguese Communist Party

Manuela Bernardino, Member, Central Committee Secretariat

Our first words are in solidarity with the communists and workers of Greece, with their persistent and courageous struggle. Their struggle is our struggle. We wish them the greatest success.

We also greet the parties present here confirm the PCP’s profound commitment to help strengthen the process of the International Meetings of Communist and Workers’ Parties, highlighting the many things that unite us in the struggle against capital, for social progress, peace and socialism, despite the variety of situations and experiences and despite differences of opinion. The development of the struggle in each of our countries, which is on the rise, must necessarily be associated with a more intense joint or converging action, with stronger international cooperation and class solidarity. Our meetings have become precious, and even irreplaceable, milestones for this goal.

1. The Portuguese situation

In Portugal, we face the fiercest offensive against the workers, the people and the country, since the fascist period in Portugal, which the April 1974 revolution put to an end.

It is an offensive that severely affects all anti-monopoly classes and strata, but which has the working class and all workers in general, as its main target. It seeks to intensify exploitation, to destroy achievements and rights that were won through many decades of harsh struggles; to reduce the unit costs of labour; to deal very serious blows against the national health service, public education, the social security system; to dismantle the state’s social functions and destroy what is left of the state entrepreneurial sector.

It is an offensive that is dramatically impoverishing the people and bankrupting the country, subverting the constitutional democratic regime and dangerously jeopardising national independence and sovereignty.

Portugal is a small country of little more than 10 million inhabitants and is now the European Union’s most unequal country. There are about 1 million unemployed (30 percent of which are young people between the ages of 15 and 30), 1.2 million workers with precarious jobs, over two million people living below the poverty line. And the situation is getting worse. On an economic level, it has a productive apparatus that has been weakened to an extraordinary degree, as a result of the country’s participation in the European Union and the Euro. There is a recessionary situation, with a forecast drop in GDP of three percent next year [2012].

The country’s serious situation has become worse with the outbreak of capitalism’s cyclical crisis and its expression in the so-called debt crisis, and with the brutal impositions of the so-called “aggression pact” (as we call it in our struggle) which was signed by the Socialist Party (PS), Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Social Democratic Center (CDS), with the European Union and the IMF, and which is today the target of very strong popular opposition. Taking advantage of the crisis, and in close liaison with foreign capital, the ruling class seeks to liquidate the state social functions and to fully reconfigure the state to serve its own interests. To this end, it does not hesitate — just as during the fascist period — to submit Portugal to imperialism’s economic, political and military domination, in particular that of the EU imperialist bloc, of the US and NATO.

This raises once again the national question as a fundamental issue for the Portuguese people’s emancipation process. The patriotic and left-wing policy which the PCP identifies as the more immediate political goal of our struggle, is based on this reality — dialectically associating the class and the national questions. Defending the Constitution of the Republic, which actually still enshrines in its preamble the goal of socialism, and which defends anti-monopolist and anti-capitalist policies and national sovereignty, and continues to be able to unite, besides the working class, broad sectors of Portuguese society.

Meanwhile, the determining factor for building the necessary social alliances and political convergences which can break with thirty-five years of right-wing policies lies in the unity of the working class and of all workers, the people’s mass struggle, as a tested driving force of the resistance and of progressive and revolutionary transformation.

Besides a permanent attention to strengthening the party itself and its roots among the masses, it is to this end that the PCP devotes most of its activity. The success of the November 24 general strike, results of the undeniable influence and force of the CGTP-IN — the class-based trade union confederation of the Portuguese workers — which counted with the communists’ active contribution, was preceded by many small and big struggles — amongst which we highlight the large demonstrations by public employees, farmers, users of public services, professionals of the security forces and the military — and has already been followed by various demonstrations by students, pensioners and in defense of public services.

2. The crisis in, and of, the European Union

Our domestic situation is inseparable from recent developments in the European Union, which have proved right those who — like the PCP — always characterised the European Economic Community, and later the European Union, as a capitalist process of integration which was profoundly contrary to the interests of the workers and the peoples of Europe, and who always stood against their country’s association with that process.

Much has been said about the crisis in the European Union. But a correct assessment of this issue requires that we also speak of a crisis of the European Union. It is a crisis of the European Union’s foundations and of its economic, political and ideological pillars, that is, a crisis of the capitalist integration process as a whole. This assessment is essential in defining the paths, methods and stages of the struggle, as well as the alternatives and the overall alternative.

In the same way that the system as a whole is reacting to its crisis by enhancing its exploitative, oppressive and criminal nature, so too the European Union is reacting to its crisis by enhancing its neo-liberal, militarist, federalist and reactionary nature.

The recent events in Greece, Italy and Portugal, as well as the results of recent European summits, very clearly show that the process of European capitalist integration does not serve the interests of the workers and the peoples. What is occurring in the so-called European response to the crisis is an increased jump in the capitalist centralisation and concentration and a dangerous leap forward, in the face of the very real risk of an implosion of the European Union’s current configuration. However, this is further aggravating its contradictions and its own foundations and exposing its limits.

But none of this is detached from the will of the big domestic bourgeois classes. There is a coincidence of class interests between those that unleash the attacks against the states and the peoples, and those who, in each country, support and implement these attacks, and who see the crisis as an opportunity for a profoundly reactionary anti-social, political and ideological offensive, which can ensure them greater profits and more power, and which can pave the road to a reconfiguration of the states — as is the case in Portugal — and of the European Union itself.

The situation in the European continent reflects much of the complexity of the struggle that communists are confronted with. There are many axes of struggle which are dialectically interrelated, among which: strong resistance against anti-social and anti-people policies; defence of national sovereignty and democracy; concrete proposals for each nation’s sovereign economic development; cooperation and solidarity in the resistance against the supranational measures; the exposure of the nature of the European Union and promoting a break with the process of capitalist integration; the construction of unity around the defense of social, labour and sovereignty rights.

At the same time, the situation requires an intense ideological struggle and the alternative affirmation, because an acute class struggle is always necessarily associated with a very intense ideological struggle. A struggle of ideas which, in the PCP’s opinion, is based on the fundamental premise that the European Union is not reformable and that a different Europe, a workers’ and peoples’ Europe, must necessarily be built through their struggle, defeating a process of a capitalist integration which has run its course and which profoundly counters workers’ and people’s interests.

This basic premise requires the wholesale rejection of a set of measures of a federalist nature, as the ones appointed by the European Council of December 8 and 9, taken for granted by the right wing and by social democracy, deepen the imperialist nature of the European Union.

3. Imperialism’s crisis and offensive in a changing world

The situation in the European Union is but one of the expressions of capitalism’s profound structural crisis that equally affects the other two poles of the triad.

The attempt to focus attention on Europe, dramatising the so-called “sovereign debt crisis” is, in itself, an expression of the fact that inter-imperialist contradictions are growing at a breakneck speed, and seeks to achieve two central goals: to draw attention away from the serious situation in the USA and from the systemic nature of the crisis; and to test in Europe new forms of anti-social and anti-democratic aggression and of attack against the peoples’ sovereignty.

But the facts show that the tendency is towards a very quick worsening of the entire capitalist system’s structural crisis, with synchronised expressions of the crisis.

A crisis which, as we have stated in the international meetings of the past three years is, in its essence and above all, an over-production and over-accumulation crisis, which results from capitalism’s main contradiction — between the social nature of production and its private capitalist appropriation — and not from any mistake in the management of capitalism or any regional problem.

It is in this framework that imperialism’s multifaceted offensive is quickly being stepped up:

  • Through an even greater concentration of power in the hands of big capital and the main imperialist powers, of new forms of colonial domination and a violent destruction of productive forces — attempting to counter the confirmed downward trend in the rate of profit and the associated decline of the main imperialist powers;
  • Through the promotion of openly reactionary and even fascist ideologies, attempting to contain and repress social revolt and, above all, the organised struggle which is developing all over the world, and specifically in Europe;
  • Through the brutal imposition of “austerity policies” and a renewed agenda of interference and war, with incalculable consequences, which raises the struggle for peace to a new threshold of crucial importance.

At the same time, this offensive also seeks to contain any expression of the struggle and of the peoples’ sovereign assertion which counter the hegemony of the capitalist triad and which may pave the way for alternatives of social progress.

It is in this overall context that the growing contradictions and even clashes between the main imperialist powers and the so-called emerging powers must be viewed. We are facing an important process of realignment of forces that, with its contradictory character, objectively challenges imperialism’s hegemonic domination, and may open up positive prospects for the world balance of forces if the national processes take the path of more advanced anti-monopoly and anti-capitalist transformations, and if the processes of building socialism are confirmed and furthered.

Recent international summits, and specifically the G20 Summit, illustrate this reality, as well as imperialism’s strategy to deal with the emerging powers in a dual way, between confrontation and the attempt to involve them in its strategy of domination. Also inseparable from this reality is the war agenda of the USA, NATO and the European Union in the entire region of North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and even the Far East, which entails extremely high risks of generalised military confrontations.

It is in this highly complex and demanding framework that we consider it essential to continue paying attention to all aspects of our struggle. If the maturity of objective factors for developing the process of revolutionary overcoming of capitalism is patently clear, there are, however, numerous elements and factors which reveal significant delays in the development of the subjective factor of the struggle — an essential element, as history clearly shows, for advancing the revolutionary struggle — and this forces a more rigorous and careful definition of the methods, goals, stages and forms of struggle.

4. The goal of socialism

This year, the PCP celebrated ninety years of existence. As a creation of Portugal’s working class movement, the PCP began life under the October Revolution’s international impact. Operating strictly underground under a difficult situation that lasted nearly fifty years, the PCP consolidated its role as the vanguard of the working class, and as a major national force.

The Portuguese communists do not forget that the major progressive advances achieved in the 20th Century are inseparable from the undertakings to build a new society free of exploitation. Twenty years after the destruction of the USSR, it is more than ever obvious that the world needs the Lenin motherland and the socialist camp, and that the communist project is more realistic than ever.

Of course we need to examine the path traversed until now, to study the causes and consequences of the dramatic defeats that were suffered, to learn from the positive and negative lessons taken from the experience of building socialism. This is an extremely important issue, one that has been and will continue to be studied and reflected upon by each of our parties, and a topic for exchanges of analyses and thoughts.

Confronted with the defeats of socialism, and in response to the extremely fierce anti-communist campaign, in May 1990 the PCP held an Extraordinary Congress where it confirmed its communist identity, rejected campaigns about the “death of communism” and the “irreversible decline” of communist parties, and stressed that what failed was not the communist ideal and project, but rather a historically specific “model” that strayed from — and even contradicted — certain fundamental features of a socialist society involving workers’ power, political democracy, social and economic structures, the party and the way it exercises its vanguard role, and theory.

This analysis — further elaborated and developed at the subsequent congresses of our party — highlights, among others, four fundamental lessons:

1) That the revolutionary undertaking of socialist change must be the work of the masses themselves, and that the masses’ conscious and creative involvement is essential for its victory;

2) That the communist party’s vanguard role — armed with the intrinsically dialectical and anti-dogmatic theory of Marxism-Leninism, with its project of change, with its thoroughly democratic way of operating, with its close ties to the working class — is essential to success in building the new society;

3) That revolutions cannot be exported or copied, and that the universal laws of the social transformation process do not contradict, but rather imply, that socialism has to be built according to the specific conditions of each country;

4) That — and this actually confirms some well-known warnings raised by Lenin — the process of building a new society turned out to be lengthier and more complex than expected, but this in no way changes the basic direction of events in contemporary times, and the relevance of socialism as the alternative to capitalism.

The PCP’s 18th Congress highlighted precisely the fact that today, socialism is a real possibility, one that is becoming more necessary and urgent every day.

Within the system itself, there is no solution for the deep-seated injustices and inequalities generated by capitalist exploitation. For this reason, the PCP has always set itself as its prime goal the historic mission of building socialism and communism in Portugal — as is spelled out in its Rules.

The Portuguese communists have always made a link between their immediate tasks and their programmatic goals. While defining precisely, at each historic moment, the current stage of the revolution, Portugal’s communists have never separated the tasks of one stage from the tasks of the next.

Such is what happened with the Programme for a Democratic and National Revolution, to overthrow fascism, and this is what is happening with our current Programme for an Advanced Democracy.

Nearly a century ago, the October Revolution heralded the historical epoch of transition from capitalism to socialism. Capitalism’s development and current crisis have made it more necessary and urgent than ever to overcome it in a revolutionary way.

This does not, however, mean conditions are everywhere ripe to place socialism on the agenda as an immediate goal, but our day-to-day struggle must be waged while always keeping this prospect in mind, without being discouraged by delays or difficulties, and without giving in to the temptation of “skipping stages”.

While paying special attention to strengthening the party and its links to the masses, the PCP considers that its struggle for a patriotic and left-wing policy and for an advanced democracy, is inseparable from its project of building a socialist and communist society in Portugal.

5. The workers’ and peoples’ struggle

It is up to communist parties, with close links with the masses, and with the proper role of the class-based trade union movement and of other mass movements, to contribute toward an understanding of the scale of the huge problems that the working class, working people and peoples are today confronting, and to organise the struggle to resist capitalism’s fierce offensive. This is inseparable from advances and is essential in building alternatives of social progress, with the prospect of socialism.

In the current stage — characterised by great intensification in the exploitation of the labour force; with a liquidation of labour, trade-union and social rights; and with imperialism’s increasingly fierce anti-people offensive and aggressiveness — there is growing discontentment among workers and peoples at the harsh living conditions being thrust upon them. Through the development of the struggle, there is a growing awareness of the need to fight the dynamic of concentration and centralisation of capital.

The attempt to make working people pay for the crisis is spurring the organised working-class struggle in several countries — an acute class struggle — and leading to hugely diverse demonstrations that reveal capitalism’s shrinking support base, and the availability of other anti-monopoly strata to struggle.

There is a potential to build broad social alliances that — even if limited and temporary — can contribute toward a needed struggle against the dominant big-business policies and toward building democratic, patriotic and anti-monopoly alternatives.

We Portuguese communists — while not underestimating the dangers inherent in the crisis — consider that there is real potential for progressive change, based on the multifaceted resistance to imperialism’s offensive and on the development of organised workers’ struggles. The resistance against the regressive social measures is an example of this. They are developing through sectoral struggles, demonstrations and general strikes, as in the case of Portugal. These actions are of prime importance in preventing an historic take-back of social rights and freedoms that, were it to happen, would mean a retreat of many decades, and would undermine the very continuation of the struggle.

The progressive advances that have been achieved in several countries of Latin America, are based on the assertion of national sovereignty, and contain within them anti-imperialist content and stances that are highly significant in the current changing world balance of forces. They prove there are paths which move things away from, and objectively counter, capitalist barbarity. Solidarity with these processes strengthens the anti-imperialist front.

Coordination between the struggle for peace, the defence of national sovereignty and democracy, the struggle for jobs with rights, is very necessary right now. Therein lies the possibility of radical, progressive and revolutionary changes. In our view, recent and current popular revolts are a result of the deepening in their respective regimes’ contradictions and crises, of the masses’ yearning for justice and social progress. But without the decisive role of a class-based party and of a class-based trade union movement, these processes can be appropriated by nationalist, religious or populist forces and be reversed by imperialism.

While standing in solidarity with the Arab peoples for their democratic and social rights, we strongly condemn all forms of external interference, and in particular all imperialist wars and aggressions such as the one unleashed on Libya. It is with great concern that we denounce all provocations, interference and domestic destabilisation that imperialism has for a long time now been effecting against Syria, as well as the threats that hang over Iran.

As our party’s 18th Congress stated, “imperialism’s fierce offensive exhibits no signs of letting up”, there is a “danger of violent responses”, but it also considered that “imperialism’s hands are not completely free” not only because “it is conditioned by its own difficulties and contradictions”, but also because “resistance and struggle continues everywhere”. It is this resistance and struggle that we salute from here.

6. The international communist and revolutionary movement

Great responsibilities lie on the shoulders of communist parties and of the international communist and revolutionary movement.

Together with the weaknesses, difficulties and problems that still exist in our movement, there are undoubtedly unifying issues in the resistance to big business and the imperialist offensive that make it possible — regardless of the very diverse situations — to confidently put forward the prospect of socialism.

Being rooted in the masses, organising and energising the struggle, waging the ideological battle to enhance its level of conscience, are all key elements in raising the revolutionary prospect of social change. They contribute to defining the working class’s social alliances with other strata in the immediate struggle for alternative policies, against exploitation, oppression, reaction, imperialism and war.

Internationalist solidarity is today more necessary than ever to defeat the schemes and attempts to liquidate labour and democratic rights that were gained through hard struggles. It is indispensable to avoid a new imperialist-imposed new world order.

Cooperation among communist parties, their convergence and joint action to fight big capital’s offensive and to share experiences in the search for alternative solutions, should take into account equality of rights, respect for differences, non-interference in internal affairs, and tactical flexibility, seeking the widest possible unity, frankness and mutual solidarity.

To us, solidarity and joint action and its necessary reinforcement do not mean political homogeneity or structuring the communist movement, but rather the gathering of different experiences of social change and the pooling of efforts toward specific goals.

The revolutionary experience of the 20th Century, and the times we are now living — times of resistance and accumulation of forces — confirm Marxist-Leninist theses about the laws of social development and the socialist revolution, and show how necessary it is to defend them with conviction when confronting our adversaries’ ideological offensive. Even when they are forced to recognise Marx’s genius and talk about a “return to Marx”, our adversaries seek to oppose him to Lenin and to empty him of revolutionary content. At the same time, they highlight the growing diversification of paths for the revolutionary process, the fact that there are no “models” for revolution, and the absolute need (greatly highlighted by Lenin) to take each country’s specifics into account.

The PCP’s work — both nationally and within the international communist and revolutionary movement — is based on its characteristics as a party of the working class and of all workers, as a patriotic and internationalist party, because in our view the national factor and the class factor are not contradictory, they reinforce each other. That is why upholding national independence and sovereignty is a key issue for the Portuguese revolution.

7. The importance of the international meetings process

In ending, just a few words to reassert our engagement, solidarity and identification with the process of International Meetings of Communist and Workers’ Parties. Our characteristics, of non-structured fraternal cooperation, have provided a major thrust to regroup and give a new boost to the communist movement, and have contributed to stabilising this regular forum where we exchange experiences and search for guidelines for joint or convergent action seeking its reinforcement.

The frank, open and fraternal discussion that characterises our meetings has yielded a powerful and significant consensus, and thus provided expression to the many things that unite us, in spite of the diverse situations under which we work and of the differences or even disagreements that naturally exist.

Today, our knowledge of each other and of the diverse realities in which we operate is much greater than it was a decade ago. This has been a major contribution toward strengthening bilateral relations, something which the PCP considers particularly important. However, there are still major shortcomings in our cooperation and solidarity with a view to convergence and joint action, and it is important to see how we can overcome this situation. Our understanding is that this is the result of very diverse levels of organisation, work and influence among parties — these must be taken into account when developing joint or convergent action.

Twenty years have passed since the counterrevolution in the Soviet Union and despite the violent anti-communist campaign against the ideals of a communist project, today’s situation highlights that capitalism and not socialism is in the dock.

For communist parties, the crisis of capitalism as a system raises, as a matter of great urgency, the need to strengthen ourselves organisationally, politically and ideologically, and to strengthen our links to the masses so as to contain and reverse big business and imperialism’s fierce offensive, and to advance the demand to overcome it in revolutionary fashion: socialism.

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