Portugal: A left government under capitalism?

For the first time in history, a Portuguese government is possible between the social democrats of the Socialist Party, the communists & greens of the Unitary Democratic Coalition and leftist socialists of the Left Bloc. Such a coalition would have the majority of seats in the parliament of Portugal. But will this government be socialist, or a capitalist one? To carry out the same austerity plans of the previous conservative government? Revolutionary socialists fear that a coalition under social democratic wing, will not lead to a fundamental change. In fact the social democrats have carried out social cuts and privatizations in the past, to please the Troika of European Imperialism!

Portugal shares a lot of similarities with Greece. Both nations are suffering from austerity and poverty, as governments carried out the dictates of European capitalism. Four years ago, it was estimated that 18% of all Portuguese was living in relative poverty. Today this could be as high as 25%, as the previous right-wing government carried out massive cuts to social benefits.  A problem which more and more families face is social exclusion as they lack money to participate in events. No money for fun things means that exclusion is growing. The minimum wage in Portugal is low at 589 euros ( 649 dollars ) a month, while the average income is set at 1.000 euros a month ( 1.100 dollars ). With rising prices for food, water, rents and electricity, many working class families are struggling!

The Socialist Party ( PS ) in Portugal is a typical capitalistic social democratic party. Like all labour parties it used to be a workers party, until it abandoned socialism for capitalism. The PS turned more to the right and embraced the Third Way as introduced by Tony Blair in the UK. In the 1990’s, the PS then started with social cuts and deregulation of the economy. The market was to rule supreme and the social democrats were hailed by the capitalist establishment. Because of their betrayal, the liberal conservatives of the Social-Democratic Party ( PSD ) won the 2002 elections. In Portugal the right-wing party calls itself ”social democratic”’ although they are not center-left!

As the conservative government became unpopular, the PS was able to win the 2005 elections under José Sócrates. But they did not changed the nature of the capitalist state. Sócrates was a loyal politician and served Portuguese capitalism very well. Angered by another betrayal of the PS, the voters turned on Sócrates which forced him to resign as PS leader. In 2014, the Portuguese police arrested him on the accusations of corruption, tax evasion, and money laundering. José Sócrates became the first former prime minister in the history of the country, to face accusations of corruption in court. As of October 2015, it is not clear if he will be found guilty!

Portuguese communists are united in the Unitary Democratic Coalition, which is made up of the Portuguese Communist Party ( PCP ), the Green Party and the Democratic Intervention. Unlike the Spanish and Italian communist parties, the PCP rejected eurocommunism and remained a dogmatic Stalinist party, loyal to the Soviet-Union and its leaders. Álvaro Cunhal was the main leader of the PCP between 1961 and 1992. He fought the dictatorial right-wing regime of António de Oliveira Salazar, who ruled Portugal as dictator for 36 years. After the Carnation Revolution, the communist party was legalized and allowed to participate in elections!

Both the PS and the PCP refused to work together for a socialist Portugal. Capitalism was not overthrow and remained alive and intact. Stalinist sectarianism prevented any coalition on socialist grounds. The PS at the time was not yet committed to capitalism and had Álvaro Cunhal not been such a dogmatic leader, a Portuguese Socialist Republic could have been born out of the Carnation Revolution. Yet the bourgeoisie of Portugal survived and kept its control over the means of production. It shows why a united front of leftist parties on a socialist program is needed!

The current Left Bloc of socialists is relative young. 16 years ago, political parties and groups to the left of social democracy came together. The biggest were the People’s Democratic Union, a Maoist group created in 1974, the Revolutionary Socialist Party ( Trotskyists ) and the Política XXI ( leftist socialists ). In 1999 these groups created the Left Bloc, as a electoral alliance for the Portuguese left-wing. Today the bloc is a political party and the old groups are fused into it!

It did not win much support until the 2009 elections, when 16 of its member were elected into parliament. But then the Left Bloc made a huge mistake. During the presidential elections they called on leftist voters to vote for the PS candidate. Now this was a highly unpopular move since the social democrats were in government and ruled the nation by cutting social services. The Left Bloc seemed to side with the austerity PS government, which also angered many workers. The leftist socialists lost 269.000 voters during the 2011 elections and 8 seats!

Revolutionary socialists understood very well, why so many voters turned on the Left Bloc. Supporting elements of the Socialist Party was a very bad move. It made the leftist socialists seem like hypocrites and this is what Revolutionary Socialist Media fears will happen again, if they choose to side with the PS again in 2015. A left government can only be build if it brakes with the capitalist system. But the social democrats will never do this, they are loyal supporters of the markets. Both the Unitary Democratic Coalition ( PCP & Greens ) and the Left Bloc, would be junior members in a PS dominated coalition!

What is to be done? The Left Bloc must argue for a socialist government of workers and poor, against austerity and capitalism. It should appeal to the Portuguese Communist Party to build a future socialist republic. However the communists seem to have embraced this idea to support reformist demands which are progressive in nature, but will not change the capitalist state. Socialism will not be created if the Left Bloc and the Unitary Democratic Coalition, join the PS in a coalition government. Worse it could result in the fact that leftist socialists and communists take ”responsibility” for austerity cuts. For workers there would be deep disappointment and disillusion in socialist ideals, should there be a austerity government supported by the communists & greens and the Left Bloc!

For the conservative; PSD it would be big opportunity, because if workers feel disillusioned in leftist parties, they can be manipulated to vote right-wing. This is why revolutionary socialists reject any government based on the capitalist system. We call on the Left Bloc to reject any coalition government, based on the demands by the Troika of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fond and the European Central Bank. SYRIZA in Greece has already capitulated to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Dutch social democrat and President of the Euro-Group!


These young social democrats still think they are progressive and fair. But their mother party is deeply supportive of austerity!

These young social democrats still think they are progressive and fair. But their mother party is deeply supportive of austerity!