For a Socialist-Communist Coalition in Portugal

Two years and a few days ago, in the early morning hours of April 25, 1974, Radio Lisbon began to beam the revolutionary song "Grandola" over the land. The anthem, expressing belief in "equality on every face" and a Portugal where "the people take first place," carried a message that had rarely been heard in a nation which had suffered for 48 years under fascism. Fittingly, the song was the signal for those army officers--mainly captains and majors--committed to the cause of a socialist and democratic Portugal to take command of key military and government installations, and to overthrow the regime of President Marcello Caetano. "Grandola" was played and sung by the Portuguese many times in the days following the coup. It expressed better than any party or government's program the motives that impelled massive redistribution from big landowners to the laborers who worked the estates and that eventually brought about the nationalizations of industry and various types of workers control which followed. And "Grandola" also expressed the emotions that demanded freedom for Portugal's colonialized peoples in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Angola.

The first weeks and months of social revolution following the Lisbon Spring of 1974 suggested that a united people was advancing toward its goals. But since the failed right-wing coups of September 1974 and especially, March 1975, it has become apparent that no consensus exists among ordinary Portuguese on the pace or the methods for the nation's transition to socialism, nor does agreement truly exist yet on the fact of revolution itself. Too many Portuguese, poisoned by the years when the fascist rulers identified all proposals for reform as Communist conspiracies, still identify socialism with atheism and totalitarian government.

These difficult truths were expressed in this week's elections to Portugal's new Assembly of the Republic, the first time in 51 years that the Portuguese had chosen their own lawmakers freely. Buttressed by the overt support of a Catholic Church which succored the old Salazarist regime, the right-wing Social Democratic Center Party (CDS) received about 16 per cent of the vote, while the more moderate rightist Popular Democrats garnered about 24 per cent. These parties stand, at best, for a freezing of revolution and opposition to the increased power of the landless peasants of the Allentejo and factory workers, and at worst a gradual return to the days of authoritarian rule by landlords and monopolists. But the center-right parties now have far better claims to lead the nation than they did a year ago, when elections to the constituent assembly gave them only about one-third of the vote. In that election, the left and far-left parties received a solid majority, allowing them to write a Portuguese Constitution which formalized the majority of the nation's faith in socialism.

But now a coalition for reaction has formed, composed of hundreds of thousands of embittered refugee-settlers from colonial Africa and as many or more Northern Portuguese peasants who own small plots of land and fear collectivization. In last Sunday's election, the small-holders heeded the instructions of their Church--and supported parties which their priests told them from the pulpits would put "Christ and God" before all else. If an equally powerful, unified opposition to these trends does not develop, the Portuguese Revolution will lose--and if it loses, it will not represent the innate "conservatism" of a people, but the failure of large left organizations which say they speak for the masses.

On this score, the Portuguese Socialist Party should come in for great criticism. The party, led by Mario Saores, has consistently played down the importance of socialist reform like workers' ownership of industry and agrarian reform and emphasized the Communist and far leftists' "threat to democracy." In this way the Socialists have sought moderate and conservative votes--and despite their drop over last year's election, the parliamentary voting saw them remain the largest single political force in the nation, with 35 per cent. But the result of this electoral policy is to legitimate the rightist attack on socialism, which is put in terms of supporting a "free" alternative to Stalinist domination. Caught between moves toward socialism and reaction, between a left and a right which imply coherent but opposite courses for the future, the Socialists can gain votes but never rule alone. Soares' party must cease its indecision and choose its allies and its direction.


That direction should be a move leftward and those allies should be the Portuguese Communist Party. The present economic crisis can only be resolved through attracting foreign capital and through some measure of sacrifice--in terms of wage gains--by Portuguese workers. But most Western capital, particularly American loans and credit channelled through the World Bank and other agencies, has strings attached: the "stabilization" of the nation, meaning an end to strikes, enforced wage cuts, and higher prices making revenues for a revived private industrial sector. Such conditional aid would destroy any hope for Portuguese socialism, while workers would be recalcitrant and possibly violent, if sacrifices were forced on them in the name of U.S. and other capitalist nations' investment policies.

Foreign investment--from all countries, including Communist nations--should be sought by the next Portuguese government, which the Socialists will probably lead. This aid should place no limits on the development of democratic socialism and workers rights to strike, protest and have a say in the production process. More important, the Socialists should seek parliamentary support from the Communists for this program to end economic decay. The Communists have a very sizable constituency among the Portuguese working class. Their presence in a government coalition would assure the revolution's supporters that the revolution is continuing, and that necessary sacrifices will be requested of them by their parties, not the parties of reformed liberal fascists and Catholic rightists.

A Socialist-Communist coalition--with the Communists as junior partners, reflecting their fourth-place electoral finish with about 15 per cent--is needed to maintain working-class confidence in the Portuguese revolution. Despite the Socialists' insistence that they rule alone, or go into opposition, it is the only true manner in which the promises of April 25, 1974 can be redeemed.