Portugal: Thousands celebrate Portuguese ‘Carnation Revolution’ with resistance

The people are on the streets, the fight goes on!

Thirty six years after the abolition of the dictatorship by a mass movement of the working class, the Portuguese government is planning one of the biggest ever attacks on the remaining achievements of the Carnation Revolution of 1974.

The 25th April, was the 36th anniversary of the 1974 Portuguese revolution. On this day, fascism in Portugal was overthrown, and a revolutionary process that rocked capitalism to its foundations and brought Portugal within sight of socialism, was set in motion.

April 25 did not mean only the overthrow of fascism by the MFA (the so-called ‘Captains of April’). It was also the start of a process in which the working class struggled for power. The Carnation Revolution represented the beginning of a period during which Portuguese capitalism was almost brought to its knees. The Times (British daily newspaper) commented at the time, "Capitalism is dead in Portugal".

Land reforms were implemented, the central sectors of the economy were nationalized, under the control of workers’ councils, and a ‘socialist constitution’ was adopted. The soldiers in 1975 swore allegiance to the socialist revolution, everyone had democratic rights and a drastic increase in wages and trade union rights were implemented. Eventually, however, the revolution was set back and betrayed by the leaders of the left. Since then, capitalism has done everything to nullify the achievements of April: the economy was privatised, the land reform rolled back, and socialism removed from the constitution.

“PEC” = plan of capitalist exploitation

Today, at a time when the working class is suffering from Portugal’s deep capitalist crisis, when the capitalists and their government are trying to carry through the bailout of the banks at the expense of the working class through the ’PEC’ (Growth and Stability Programme) and with a ‘Greek scenario’ threatened, the ideas and lessons of the Carnation Revolution are more relevant than ever. The Portugese government has announced plans to freeze wages, to undermine the rights of civil servants, and to privatise 17 state-owned companies, such as the postal service and the airplane company, TAP.

Thousands participated on the march to commemorate the revolution this year, with large delegations from the CGTP (largest Trade Union federation), the nurses, public services, the Young Communists, the PCP (Communist Party), Left Bloc, etc. Besides the traditional slogan, "April 25 forever, fascism never again", other slogans and banners linked to the current situation were clearly visible in the various contingents: "Fight, Fight against privatization!", "April once again, power to the people!", and “Wage increases and no cuts to our trade union rights!“, etc. It was clear that the demonstrators did not only take the streets in memory of the revolution and to celebrate its achievements of that time, but also to bring their own demands against the current government, and to show that they will fight back against the PEC and further attacks. The war in Afghanistan and the role of Portugal, as a member of the NATO, was also denounced by many anti-war activists.

Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Portugal), intervened in the demonstration, with a pamphlet entitled ‘Celebrate the April Revolution with socialist resistance’, which was widely distributed at the demonstration. Resistance is growing among the working class. After the magnificent strikes of nurses, teachers and the public sector workers in the previous months, new actions will take place in the next days. On Monday 26 April and Friday 30 April, the railway workers are on strike, and on Tuesday 27 April all transport workers will take action, along with postal workers.

Socialismo Revolucionario argues for a unification of the struggles and puts forward the need for a real general strike to stop the plans of the government and bosses. We call for the setting up of a governmental alternative, composed of the Left organisations (PCP and LB) and the trade unions, with a radical socialist programme that chooses the side of the workers and not those of the bosses and speculators.

Celebrate the April Revolution through Socialist Resistance against the capitalist attacks

Leaflet distributed by Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI) on the demonstration

36 years ago, the working class and other exploited sections of society, with a massive participation by the youth, exploded onto the streets in support of the ‘Movement of the Captains’, and turned the country’s 1974 military coup into a revolution that shook capitalism to its core.

Throughout the whole country, workers became the main actors in the transformation of their own destiny; they refused to continue with colonial war, challenged the capitalist organisation of society, urged the nationalisation of key sectors of the economy, and started the reform of the land.

The workers, as in all revolutionary processes, put their skills and creativity at the service of a society, without the exploitation of man by man, and instinctively understood that it was necessary to advance to socialism. The Workers’

Committees, the Residents’ Committees, and the revolutionary interventions in the armed forces created elements of a process of dual power, that could have led to the effective ending of capitalism in Portugal through the establishment of a socialist democracy.

Capitalism had to use all its resources – the EEC (European Economic Community), the veiled threats of "visits of NATO squadrons", the terrorism of Spinola and the ELP, and the false "socialism" of the leadership of the PS (Socialist Party) – to prepare the division of the workers’ movement and unleash the 25 November coup that ended the revolutionary process. The perspective of a "Portuguese way to Socialism," trying to balance the pressure of the masses with alliances with the sectors of the so-called "democratic bourgeoisie" thus failed, but not the need for a genuine socialist transformation of Portugal and of the world, as a whole.

A European Union of the Bosses

In the process of capitalist restoration, the ruling class unleashed a brutal offensive against the gains of April, accompanied by a profound ideological offensive against workers’ and their organisations. A new wave of capitalist propaganda was unleashed, with the collapse of the system of Stalinist planned economies in the former USSR and Eastern Europe, and the process of capitalist restoration which began in the late 1980s.

Over the past 36 years, we have witnessed a constant process of attacks on the living standards of workers. From the expectations created by the ruling class in the EEC and later in the European Union, workers and young people can only conclude that the EU, as opposed to having meant a real improvement in living conditions, has only represented more pressure against the achievements of the April revolution. The EU has been an excellent tool for capitalism to impose neo-liberal policies, with the deregulation of markets, privatisation of public services and attacks on workers’ rights.

The current capitalist crisis

It is the capitalist system itself that brings crisis, as dark clouds bring rain. Capitalism is a system in which capital wages a never-ending battle for greater profits by exploiting the working class for its labour in all sectors of society, a battle of which workers and their families are always the first victims. The system of capitalist production will always lead to crises of over-production, expressed in financial crises, deficit crisis and mass unemployment.

The crisis today is no different. This crisis, the biggest since 1929, has its origins in the search of profits by capitalism, a quest that leads to destruction of everything encountered along the way – living conditions, the environment, etc, but also the destruction of its own illusions in the free-market dogma. A diffuse but growing anti-capitalist consciousness has begun to develop.

Workers resist throughout Europe

In the last period, the banks and capitalism were saved by the intervention of capitalist states. Everywhere, governments want now to pass the bill for this to the workers. Across Europe, governments have launched capitalist austerity programmes to recover funds used to save the capitalist system.

In all countries, there is a growing resistance against these attacks. Greek workers are waging a heroic struggle against the vicious attacks imposed by the IMF, the European Union and international financial capital. They have already held three recent general strikes in Greece. In France last week, there was a nationwide rail strike. Iceland has seen the biggest protests since the Second World War and in Spain, tens of thousands took to the streets against the Zapatero government.

The “SGP” – Building the General Strike

Also in Portugal, the government wants to pass on the cost of the crisis onto workers’ shoulders. The Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) of the Socrates government represents just that. The Socialist Party government, with the help of the right-wing PSD and CDS-PP, wants to recover public funds which were given to banks and big business, through an assault on the rights of the working class and on the remaining gains of the April revolution.

Since capitalism was rescued in Portugal, year after year, the achievements of the revolution have been under continuous attack. But the current capitalist crisis seems to provide the government with an excuse to double their efforts, emphasising its intentions to privatise remaining public services and further reduce workers’ real wages. The government wants to sell 17 public companies, including CTT, ANA, TAP, GALP, REN and EDP to private profiteers.

But not only workers in the public sector are being called upon to pay for the crisis. Hundreds of thousands of workers have lost, or are about to lose, their jobs. Unemployment has reached 12% and the government is cutting all social benefits. More than 200,000 unemployed have no state support. In this, the workers and their families are again the victims of a capitalist crisis that they did not cause.

Only by organising resistance against attacks and against capitalism can we stop this massive assault. Teachers, nurses, local administration workers and other sectors have already engaged in the fight against the government’s measures. But the attacks are not confined to one sector of the economy. Against these generalised attacks by capital and its government we have to build a generalised response, unifying the struggles and organising solidarity between workers of different sectors, both public and private.

It is imperative that the labour and trade union movement develop now, from the dozens of struggles that have already emerged throughout the country, a programme that can unite the struggles in a powerful general strike to stop the attacks.

Socialist Resistance

But let us be sure, these struggles alone will not suffice. By building a relationship of forces more favourable to workers we can temporarily stop the attacks, but as long as we are living in a capitalist system, every achievement is permanently under threat. As during the revolutionary process of 1974, we need again to put forward a socialist, democratic alternative to capitalism. Only a society and economy that are not based on increasing private profits, but on the needs of the people and workers, can bring a structural solution, for the defence of workers’ rights and the living conditions of the people and their environment.

In Europe, regardless of nationalities, workers and young people are facing the same kind of attacks: pay freezes or cuts, attacks on social benefits, privatisations etc. All workers have the same interests to defend, and we can not leave international capitalism exploit the competition between workers from Greece, Germany etc. We will have to unify across the borders and fight for an alternative system to capitalism, an international socialist system.

For a programme of resistance and of government – of the PCP, Left Bloc and CGTP

More than ever, the policies of the right-wing Socialist Party, aided by the PSD and the PP, raise the question of the need for a political alternative to the capitalist government. We argue that the parliamentary parties of the Left, the LB, the PCP, along with the trade union movement – namely the CGTP – and all workers and social groups and organisations should immediately begin talks to build a united front of resistance against the capitalist offensive. We call on the left Bloc and the PCP, with their large representation in Parliament, to start to draw up a common programme against the attacks of the Government and the bosses, that can serve as a facilitator to mobilise and organise the working class, youth, pensioners, immigrants and the poor with the perspective of establishing a workers’ government based on democratically elected representatives of workers, trade unions and social organisations.

We defend the creation of committees of action in the factories, the workplaces and the communities to support this process. A workers government would bring into public ownership the banking and financial sector, as well as the other key sectors of the economy, using the vast resources that are today available for speculation, in order to start the reconstruction of society towards democratic socialism, responding to the needs of the majority, not the greed of the increasingly small handful of private parasites as is the case today. It was with the view of achieving this objective that the Revolution took place in April 1974, not for the social decline, mass unemployment and growing misery which is all that capitalism and its current crisis have to offer us.

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April 2010