|Written by Manuel Afonso – MAS|
|Wednesday, 23 May 2012 16:01|
In 2012 we celebrate the 38th anniversary of the latest revolution in Western Europe, the Portuguese revolution of 1974-75. But this is not one more anniversary. This is the moment in history when the achievements of Portuguese revolution are being threatened the most.
Both,wages and pensions, as well as employment’s guarantees, the National Health Service and also the education.
Andit is not just the labor and social rights conquered in the revolution of April 25 that have been devastated by the troika [European Union, European Central Bank and IMF] and the government, also the minimum guarantees of democracy are at stake: the workers have been losing the right to strike due to precarious employment, due to employers’ blackmail or the police repression, as seen in the past general strike. Press freedom is also hampered and even the elections and the act of voting mean little, once itis Angela Merkel and the troika who decide upon our lives.
We are moving toward a scenario similar to that lived before April 25. A new social revolution is necessary. In order to bring it about it is necessary to understand the great revolution of April, although the regime hide it and the television, the school textbooks and a part of the Left always refer to it as a thing of the past and not as the only solution for the future.
Coup or Revolution?
Schools lead us to believe that there was not a real revolution but a coup d’état, led by military officers,that the coup d’état lasted only one day, ended up with fascism, re-set democracy and all of them lived “happily ever after.” Many workers and young people also think that there was not a revolution: they look around and think “if there had been a real revolution we would not be living like this.” But that is not so.
First,we have to think “why was there a coup?” The coup was the result of the revolution in Africa, the struggle of African peoples for their liberation. This revolution crossed the ocean with the restlessness of the captains [as the military men werecalled, those military officers who led the movement that overthrew the dictatorship] that in order to end the war, they had to overthrow the regime. But it was just this they intended to do, so much they asked the people to stay at home and handed over power to Antonio de Spinola, General of the regime.
But the peoplerefused to have only that and descended on the streets,becoming the main character of political life. Over 18, 19 months, millions of people took to the streets, stalemated the PIDE [the Dictatorship Political Police], fought for elections, did land reform, defeated coup attempts, nationalized the banks, occupied corporate companies, houses and fields and forced the provisional governments, composed by the Armed Forces Movement (MFA) and the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), in most cases along with the Socialist Party (PS) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD), to go further than they had intended to. Only then, through a revolution, it was possible to nationalize banks and the major monopolies, to give land to many peasants, to increase salaries, to impose public education and health and create one million jobs. Only a coup would not have been able to do all this.
Democratic or anti-capitalist revolution?
Many others admit that there was a revolution. Yet they say that the revolution occurred only to restore democracy. That was the argument of PS, PCP, and MFA, which therefore joined the “democrats” of the PSD and even to the General Spinola in provisional governments. The revolution would aim to bring about elections, the end of the colonial war and the entry in the EEC (European Community). That was not true: the revolution was intended primarily to lift out from poverty millions workers, giving land to peasants, bring health and education for everybody, establish a workers’ democracy, which would not be satisfied with elections every four years.
That’s why the workers fought mainly as from the March 11th, when they defeated, in the streets the last coup supported by the New State’s sectors, including Spinola himself. If this had been only a democratic revolution it would have ended after the March 11th, when the defeat of fascism was guaranteed. However, on the contrary, it was here that it was deepened. It was from this moment on, especially in the famous “hot summer”, that everything was questioned: the banks were nationalized and together with it the major monopolies. Some major capitalists (the Mello’s, the Champalimaud’s, who still rule the country) were arrested or had to flee the country. Land reform waswidened through popular initiative. Many companies, abandoned by their employers, were occupied and made operational by the workers.
And in neighborhoods, in the fields, in the companies and in the army it started to emerge a new democracy, the democracy of the working class. There were committees of workers, soldiers, peasants and neighborhood committees. It was through them that life was being decided, not by decisions of a handful of capitalists and their highly paid representatives, as it happens in the current democracy, for this reason, we call it: the bourgeoisie. This scenario of dual power – the power of workers who competed with the other power, the power of the capitalists – reminded the Russian Revolution and its Soviet (a word that means councils).
For this reason, we say that the revolution was far more than democratic; it was anti-capitalist and socialist, because in its course it began to propose a new regime where the political and economic decisions were in the hands of workers, a socialist regime, therefore. Due to not having advanced to such a regime, democracy receded and is still receding nowadays. The capitalists could not tolerate a socialist regime in Portugal and therefore prepared another coup, the November 25.
Why the April 25 did not succeed?
So why did the revolution recede, why didn’t it advance to a new society, a socialist society, a project so strongly advocated by the population, in such a way that it was even enshrined in the Constitution? The first answer is: because the capitalists did not allow it and prepared a coup that “normalized” the army in order to return control to the government. However this response does not actually go to the heart of the matter, because what would sound really weird to watch would be the capitalists turn themselves into socialists, and not fight for the revolution defeat!
But why didn’t the PCP resist, organizing the workers and soldiers to fight against the coup of November 25, but, on the contrary, they eventually participated in the “democratic normalization”, i.e. the stabilization of a bourgeois-democratic regime, with PS, PSD and CDS? This happened not because there was no workers strength or willingness to advance to socialism; on the contrary, it was the left that did not express this desire. The socialism of the PS existed in its name only, and the Soviet Union, to which the PCP accounted, did not intend to break the status quo and threaten peaceful coexistence between the “socialist camp” and “capitalist camp”, as it had been agreed between Soviet and American in post-World War II.
Thus, the PS, headed by Mario Soares – the same who currently praises the April 25 – he was the first to conspire by the April 25 defeat and, in constitutional governments of the post-November 25, was he himself who began attacking the achievements of the April 25, as land reform and nationalized banking system. The PCP chose to live a comfortable life sheltered in the parliamentary opposition and in the union and local authority leadership, within the capitalist regime. The rest of the left, tiny and fragmented, had no strength or clear understanding to carry forward the struggle for socialism. It lacked a revolutionary party with strength and determination to put into practice what others proclaimed in speeches. This is the main lesson of the April 25.
For a New April
The Revolution of 1974-75 shows that, contrary to what Salazar mythology says, and which has deeply spread into our culture, the Portuguese people is not a “people of gentle manners.” The Portuguese Left has been of mild manners, yes, but the blame for that should not be attributed to workers, orphans of a combative left. Thus, we can predict that a new April will come.
The Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky said that “all revolutions are impossible until they become inevitable.” In Portugal it is increasingly inevitable. The people will not tolerate forever the misery and austerity. If it now seems hard to imagine our country in revolution, the truth is that in 1974, before the April 25 was also hard to imagine this scenario. And we have had glimpses of popular mobilization, as we saw a year ago with the “Geração à Rasca”, or rather with the great struggles of the teachers.
Tasks that have been raised currently – to stop the debt bleeding, to create jobs, to revitalize the productive economy, to raise wages, to end the precarious employment – will not be solved by the parliamentary opposition. Capitalism itself does not allow it. So, sooner or later we will see the streets of Portugal filled up as we saw in Egypt or Greece. What cannot lack right now is a project to go further, to overcome capitalism and establish a regime in which the economy is not in the hands of speculators and monopolies and the political system is not managed by highly paid “bourgeois” but is in the hands of workers and the people. A Socialist regime, therefore.
This project will not come into being spontaneously, but it must be prepared, organized and discussed with the workers and the youth. MAS was created to participate, along with the organizations of workers and youth who struggle against this regime, in building a new April 25 and a socialist alternative.