Portugal: Left opposition makes gains at Left Bloc conference

The left opposition made important headway at the third National Conference of the Left Bloc (LB), which took place in Lisbon from 4-5 May.

400 delegates debated amendments to the LB Statutes, the programme and a resolution on Europe.

The Left Bloc was launch four years ago by a Partido Socialista Revolucionário, (the Socialist Revolutionary Party, PSR – the USFI/’Mandelites’), Uniao Democratica Popular (Democratic Popular Union, UDP, an party formerly linked to the old Stalinist regime in Albania) and Politica XX1 (’Politics 21’ – a grouping that originated in a split from the Communist Party during the early 1990s).

The LB managed to bring together students and lecturers from universities, radical middle class people and some workers and youth. In 1999, the LB had two MPs elected to the national parliament and three in 2001. In local elections the LB made impressive gains and had members elected to Municipal Parliaments.

There is board sympathy among sections of young people and middle class people towards the LB, and also among some trade unionists.

Members of Alternative Socialista (AS – the CWI in Portugal have been inside the LB since its inception. A member of AS has also been elected to the Municipal Coordination of Sintra, the third most important council politically, after Lisbon and Porto.

At least in words, the LB adheres to the goal of socialism. Four years ago, at the launch conference a tiny group of LB members proposed that the party removed any reference to ‘socialism’. The vast majority of delegates rejected this proposal and socialism has been, from the beginning of its existence, an aim of LB.

Despite that decision, socialism has often been absent in the documents of the LB, and in the speeches of its main leaders.

In reality, the LB is a left reformist broad formation. However the potential exists for it to be pushed further to the Left, due to the developing objective situation in Portugal. Many rank and file LB members, as well as in other left formations, such the Communist Party, are becoming radicalised and closer to the ideas of socialism than the LB leaders. A severe economic crisis is hitting Portugal. Over the last three months, the country has technically entered a recession. According to government figures and average of 300 workers lose their jobs each day.

Internal democracy

A group of LB members, with the involvement of AS, have begun a debate on the way to improve internal democracy within LB.

During the conference some LB leaders tried to isolated opponents and refused to discuss all the proposals for inner party change put forward. One of the top leaders challenged the proponents to stand against the national leadership. And they did just that. A list of 20 delegates to the National Table (the national committee) was presented and received 12% of the vote from delegates and won 10 seats, including a member of Alternative Socialista.

The new so called "modern Socialism" approach of the LB can only find a response from wider sections of the working class and youth, who are looking for a answer to the increasingly serious political and social situation, if "modern Socialism" does not repeat the mistakes of previous "modernisers" who tried to avoid the reality of class struggle.

The comrades of Alternative Socialista put this idea forward during the LB conference. Alternative Socialista will keep fighting, on the National Table, in LB branches and outside of the LB, for a bold socialist programme based on the vital interests of working class and youth, and promoting workers’ solidarity and genuine socialism.

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May 2003