From the September 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard
Events in Portugal this year have moved with almost stunning speed. From a long-established reactionary regime, Portugal lurched overnight into a regime committed apparently to radical changes.
And so elections were held. And to the dismay of the “communists” and their Army and Copcon cohorts, the moderates and “socialists’’ emerged with an overwhelming majority of votes.
But if “communists” understand anything well, it is the paramount importance of holding onto power. By any means. So the word went out to forget about “bourgeois” democracy. Guns are more important than votes and if people start protesting, lock them up. (It has been reported that more political prisoners are held now than were found held in jails by the detested predecessors, the PIDE.)
But this was all predictable, to some extent. There is a very obvious precedent. Portugal before the coup had a long-established reactionary dictatorship, weakened by an unsuccessful war, the people impoverished, the capitalists frustrated by lack of political power. Frustrated political movements relied on emotion. This was clearly seen in the mammoth demonstrations characteristic of the Lisbon of today.
Similarly in 1917 Russia also had a long-established reactionary dictatorship, weakened by an unsuccessful war, the people impoverished, the capitalists frustrated by lack of political power. Censorship had resulted in popular ignorance so that frustrated political movements relied on resentment rather than anything else. This was clearly seen in the mammoth demonstrations characteristic of the Petersburg of 1917.
There is yet another important parallel. In 1917 elections were held for the Constituent Assembly and the Bolsheviks got less than a quarter of the total votes cast. Similarly in Portugal where the Communists only achieved a very small proportion of the votes, the majority going to the “socialists” and social democrats. The result was that in both cases the “communists” used military force to wipe out any attempts at a democratic constitution. This is important and should not be forgotten.
The real lesson of 1975 is the same as that of 1917. Lenin, Trotsky and their co-conspirators used armed force to achieve and maintain power for the very good reason that they and their supporters were only a small minority of the population. The Portuguese “communists” are evidently good Leninists and Trotskyists. They are a minority and therefore have to use armed force to suppress the rest of the community. In other words, they are waging war on the workers. They are in fact red fascists and deserve no more working-class support than the regime of whom they are such worthy heirs. For the Portuguese people, it is a case of “out of the frying-pan into the fire.”
And one final point: although the news reports from Portugal speak constantly of “communists” and “socialists”, there is not one party in Portugal, including the Maoists, which stands for the end of the wages system. They are all supporters of capitalism who find it necessary or convenient to fly the Jolly Roger. Let no-one be deceived by such a strategy.