Portugal: Purge in the Left Bloc

6 CWI members expelled in undemocratic attack

As 8 January, six CWI members have been expelled from the Left Bloc (BE) under accusations of “infiltration”. These members, along with all members of Socialismo Revolucionário (SR – CWI in Portugal) emphatically reject these trumped-up accusations, which amount to an undemocratic and ham-fisted attempt to silence dissent within the BE. Their only crime is having fought to build the Left Bloc on a revolutionary socialist basis.

Socialismo Revolucionário and the Left Bloc

SR is organised clearly as part of the CWI. This is perfectly valid within the Left Bloc, which since its foundation has been composed of organisations and tendencies such as the UDP (Democratic Popular Union), and members of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI), as well as prominent members of other social movements and cultural and political organisations.

The position and attitude of SR towards the Left Bloc, and our members’ participation within it, far from a sinister “infiltration”, has always been of the most open and honest character.

Since the formation of our organisation, our members have fought against sectarianism and have a long history of struggling shoulder-to-shoulder with both Communist Party and Left Bloc members. As SR’s programme has always clearly stated, there is a need for a United Front against austerity and for a mass workers’ party. Supporters and activists of both the PCP and the BE, and the wider workers’ movement, will necessarily have a role in these developments.

As a result of SR’s non-sectarian and working class approach to the key questions posed in the Portuguese class struggle since 2009, young members of the BE became interested in Marxism and the CWI’s programme. Some of them joined SR ranks in the period following the mass protests of the first years of the crisis in Portugal, others joined throughout 2016, after the parliamentary elections.

At that time, in Lisbon, where SR first had contact with the BE youth, there were no local BE branch meetings of any regularity, and the quite rare ad hoc youth meetings that did exist were devoid of any political discussion, wholly dedicated to organizing events. As soon as SR members started to participate, this drastically changed. Regular meetings were organized and set up to have a part dedicated to political discussion.

SR members helped to create a BE youth paper in 2015, and wrote various articles for it in the following period. During the whole year of 2016, the SR members participated in and organised BE youth meetings, and recruited people to the BE through these meetings, also helping to organize and participating in various events. Especially during the dockworkers strike in the port of Lisbon, the most militant members of the BE youth became very close to the CWI’s programme, and together with SR, founded a group under the name “Students Support the Dockworkers”, organizing students to support the strike and protests, distribute leaflets, put up posters and develop all kinds of activities in support of the dockworkers.

By November 2016, having worked closely with many activists in the BE and with a dozen SR members already members of the party, the decision was made to organise SR as an internal tendency of BE. In so doing, SR was simply responding to the invitation extended by the Left Bloc in its founding Manifesto, which called upon all the organized forces of the left to join it under the principles of anti-capitalism and what BE still calls a “plural party”, with democratic rights such as the right to form an internal tendency and have an open discussion about policy and programme.

The purge

Our request to form a tendency and to have a meeting with the leadership of the party was met with panic. In the National Committee meeting held 3 days later, an Inquiry Commission was formed, officially with the sole objective of investigating the intentions of all members of SR-CWI. The real objective, quite obviously, was to snuff out this new militant force developing within the BE, expel CWI members and impede the development of a sharper political questioning among the members of the party, especially the youth.

It was well understood by the leadership, after they were warned by the most pro-leadership members of the party’s youth, that SR members were, despite their small numbers, a “threat” to the leadership’s control over the rank and file.

This is linked to the political position of the Left Bloc’s leaders in the current conjuncture. The only reason why the leadership of BE has been able to – via its policy of subordination to the PS government’s policy – turn the party into a crutch of the PS and legitimise the “left wing” credentials of this party, is the almost absolute absence of any real political life and organised debate amongst the rank and file, especially the youth. Now that SR is a part of BE, this is changing, and it is this that the majority of the leadership fear.

Faced with the possibility of the growth of a left-opposition within the party, the leadership did not hesitate to use all the weapons at its disposal. The whole process of purge was full of legal blunders and statutory violations.

Such a process enabled SR to amass the solidarity of the entire active left-wing of the party, expressed in an open letter of solidarity that gathered the signatures of more than 200 BE comrades opposing the leadership’s attack on internal democracy. Young comrades that had only heard about SR in passing until now, have become very interested in attending SR meetings to see for themselves if there was an “infiltration”, as the bureaucratic leadership claimed. Never in the history of the SR has the revolutionary programme it raises had such a wide audience throughout the country. The leadership has committed a mistake, and it is only now starting to come to grips with it.

On 8 January 2017, six members of SR had their admission to the party “annulled” — a euphemism for expulsion. This is the culmination of an undemocratic, anti-statutory and illegal decision by the Secretariat of the party.

Without a doubt, SR will keep fighting as a revolutionary Marxist tendency, presenting to the young workers in Portugal a clear socialist programme. We will build and be strengthened within the Left Bloc and wider society, in a comradely discussion with all other left tendencies and working towards the unity of all working class people under the banner of socialism, despite the bureaucratic leaderships’ fears and attacks.

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January 2017