Posts Tagged ‘Portuguese Communist Party’

Postal Workers’ Manifesto

August 24, 2010 2 comments

Solidarity: For Workers’ Power, Vol. 8, No. 3 (December 1975), pp. 3-5

The CTT (Post Office) workers came out on strike on June 17, 1974. As the dispute hit directly at the new administration it was savagely repressed by the government and virulently denounced by the PCP. For the PCP there could be no strikes ‘against the collectivity’. The problem was that the CTT workers did not feel themselves part of the ‘collectivity’. After all the belief in the union structure which the ‘Pro-Union Committee’ (CPS) had fostered, the CTT workers were ‘amazed’ at being attacked publicly by the so-called political Party of the Working Class. The Committee issuing the manifesto was made up of various union tendencies from before April 25th and a number of worker militants integrated onto the Committee at a later date. Despite illusions as to the role of the PCP and as to the role of unions as organs of struggle, the document raises a number of interesting points.

‘A great campaign of lies continues to fall upon us, the workers of CTT. The real meaning of our struggle persistently continues to be misrepresented, so that public opinion has come out against us, trying to raise doubts and confusion among us, and seeking to isolate the pro-union workers’ committee.

We daily receive hundreds of telephone calls and telegrams from allover the country in which the CTT workers demonstrate their support, decide to continue united in struggle, and ask that we deny and denounce the untrue allegations made against the Committee and against all the workers of CTT. It is the indignant voices of 35,000 workers, and the right of the public to receive correct information ~hich compel us, yet again, to deny the falsehoods and insinuations made against us. These are made by the leaders of the Lisbon Regional Organisation (DORL) of the so-called Communist Party, an organisation which despite calling itself the party of the workers and the defender of their interests has distinguished itself in this campaign by attacking our struggle. It is an organisation which is certainly aware of the facts. But they have misrepresented and falsified our struggle in their communiques, in their meetings, in their press and even in other organs of information, through articles and declarations from their members and sympathisers.

Let us look, for example, at some of the most important points of the DORL communique of the so-called Communist Party, which appeared in the newspapers of June 28, 1974 :

1) On the composition of the CPS they say it is made up of elements which appeared after April 25th, replacing the workers who, for nearly 4 years, had struggled hard and honestly for the creation of a union.
They try to create the impression that the elements of this Committee never did any work for the workers.
It is evident that a committee which tried to organise union work in an enterprise numbering 35,000 workers could not function with a small number of people. Because of this the Committee was enlarged to help it cope with the many problems which the workers face. The new members of the Committee were democratically elected by the workers, at a meeting held in the Sports Pavilion on May 5.

2) The PCP claims that the Committee “called the strike ‘over the heads of the majority of CTT workers’. As we have announced a number of times (and the majority of CTT workers can confirm this) the strike was decided by the workers, in a large meeting of delegates, through telephone contacts with various parts of the country who could not be present, and in Assemblies held in many work-places. The decision to strike was not taken by the CPS. The Committee limited itself to carrying out the instructions of the workers. Moreover, the strike was declared on June 12 and there was still time until June 17 for the government to put forward a negotiable counter-proposal.

The PCP knows this very well. A member of their Central Committe was informed of it when he was at our offices. We don’t understand why they continue to lie about us and seek to prevent the public from being accurately informed.

3) As regards the abandoning of the struggle by those who are most impartial, we ask DORL to say who these are.

4) The communique reiterates various accusations against individual-workers of CTT, saying that they are deeply implicated in Fascism. The CPS would appreciate knowing their names and being provided with proofs, so that we can collate all the facts and speed up the purging processes.

5) The communique continues: ‘Workers of CTT, it is you and only yqu who can accept the government proposalso In all stations you should hold meetings and approve motions in support of the government proposals’. We can say that in all stations meetings have taken place and motions have been proposed. All rejected the government proposals.

Meanwhile the workers have approved a new list of demands 7 which has already been handed in.

While we have tried to clear up some fundamental points the list of lies is long. The CPS have more important tasks than entering into polemics with political organisations. This was never our intention and we hope we won’t be forced to spend our time in such replies. Political organisations who, for whatever reasons, oppose our struggle should do so honestly, and not use lies and falsifications which have an effect on public opinion. They should reply to the facts.

Once again we affirm that we are reacting to the so-called Communist Party because they have been the standard-bearers of the struggle against us, and the principal force which supports the offensive against us.

The principal task of the Committee is to develop the work of the union and the united struggle of the workers in the defense of their interests and needs.

Lisbon, June 29, 1974.

The above document was sent to all the national papers. None of them published it.

What Workers’ Councils?

August 24, 2010 2 comments


The Labour Movement before and after April 25th.

Until April 25th the working classes in Portugal, in the struggles they had embarked on against capitalism (throughout the fascist period), had had few possibilities of getting to know and of confronting the party and trade union structures which claimed to represent and defend them. This aspect is quite significant. It helps us to understand the wave of radical autonomous strikes unleashed by the working class after April 25th.

It was precisely because there were no structures of party and union type, talking of the ‘stability of the national economy’ (as the PCP and Intersindical so flagrantly did after April 25th) that radicalisation of autonomous working class action could reach undreamt of proportions.

The upsurge of demands attempting primarily to the poverty stricken situation of the Portuguese workers, soon by-passed this stage of making demands : it became a frontal attack on the basic structures of capitalism. Aims that appeared revolutionary, such as the workers’ struggle to reduce wage differentials, were accompanied by forms embodying direct democracy : the General Assemblies of Workers.

As it was of primary importance to Intersindical and to the PCP to deviate this movement into reformist channels, there was a split. A spontaneous, autonomous movement arose. It was at one and the same time the expression of a revolutionary necessity in the face or capitalist exploitation and a movement against the organisations that were preventing the achievement of these aims.

The General Assemblies, being the direct emanation of the needs of all the workers, represented an important step in the direction of workers’ emancipation. The Workers’ Committees, elected during struggles, reflected the most radical layer of workers. While the workers elected to the Committees were the expression of the requirements of the at struggleat the place of work, another movement developed and grew radical, giving rise to the Inter-Factory Committees.

The Inter-Factory Committees

Because of its perspectives this profoundly anti-capitalist workers’ movement was bound to spread. The TAP strike was the highest point of this movement.

When troops occupied the airport the striking workers realised that their revolutionary demands had to be extended and resolved by the entire working class. As at TAP most of the strikes that broke out – Lisnave, EFACEC, Timex, CTT (postal workers), Soganthal – represented a revolutionary necessity that could not be limited to ‘defence of the national economy’. The framework of struggle had to shift from a unit of production to a grouping of production units.

The Inter-Factory Committees at first accurately reflected these aspirations. But as soon as they were infiltrated by various leftist groups, manipulations (the habitual practice of these groups) cropped up. This was the beginning of the end for the Inter-Factory Committees. Moreover the collapse of struggles in those factories which had no concrete aims for uniting among themselves, and the demobilisation of the rank and file, made it easier for the leftist groups to gain control. The comrades of the Workers’ Committees who, in the factory struggles, had been the radical expression of the needs of the workers, became, on the InterFactory Committees, the agents and recruiters serving the needs of the various leftist parties to which they belonged.

Their activity as revolutionary militants, from that time on, was at the service of the sects directing them. It was contrary to the interests of the working masses. It became increasingly bureaucratic and remote, whether by placing itself entirely at the service of party ideologies or, even more dangerously, when the militants themselves became
the new bosses through the Workers’ Committees which now manage almost all the factories described as being self-managed.

Choosing between parties began to constitute the fundamental life of the Inter-Factory Committees. Because they did: not in any way reflect the workers’ interests, a situation of frustration and impasse developed.

The PRP-BR (Proletarian Revolutionary Party – Revolutionary Brigades) took account of this situation. It tried to exploit it to its Own advantage with the creation of the Revolutionary Councils of Workers, Soldiers and Sailors (CRTSM).

Deadlock in the Working Class Struggle: The Meaning of the Councils

The frustration created by interparty struggles led large sections of the working masses into a certain stagnation. This was reflected not only in the refusal to adhere to one party or another; the working class now also understood that ‘Portuguese-style socialism’ only called for sacrifices.

Portuguese capitalism could only emerge from the crisis it is now going through if the workers were ready to pay with their sweat for the reconstruction of the national economy. In populist ideological terms, the MFA and its acolytes call this ‘the Battle for Production’.

The MFA, the parties and the unions not only enter the Workers and Tenants Committee to try to recuperate the spontaneous energy which the creation of the Committees was based on, but also encourage the appearance of radical structures in order to recuperate them too, later on.

The example of the CRTSM is significant of what manipulation by a party or by a ‘progressive’ section of the MFA can amount to. It was no accident that the PRP and the ‘progressive’ section of the MFA had to assist the structuring of the CRTSM, as a springboard for future manipulation.

On the one hand the PRP cannot exist as a party without recruiting workers. Its aim is to capture the state machine, with a view to later becoming the new managers and exploiters – hence the need to create the CRTSM as a parallel structure to attain these objectives. The ‘progressive’ section of the MFA uses these same Councils with the aim of emerging from the current crisis capitalism is going through. It believes that the Councils can stimulate the labour force to produce more.

Why is this? This section of the MFA has understood that Intersindical and the existing parties no longer have enough pull to mobilise working people for the ‘Battle for Production’. That is why they are using these new forms of organisation, which can be more representative and have an impact on workers. But do the CRTSM at present have an influence on the working class?

Deadlock in the Autonomous Struggles: The Revolutionary Alternative

In the current class struggle in Portugal the workers are faced by contending forces. They must choose the way most in conformity with their revolutionary interests.

On the one hand the workers have already understood that, basically, parties and unions only canalise struggles in terms of party quarrels, and manipulate the autonomous interests of the working class.

The demonstrations of June 17 and July 6 are significant examples. The June 17 demo was entirely stage-managed by the PRP. Of the two demonstrations on July 6, the one called by Siderurgia was stage-managed by the UDP, that called by TAP, TLP, Metro, etc. by the MRPP. Their objectives were the same: to mobilise the workers in the name of objectives described as ‘non-party’ , but in reality for the furtherance of their own party interests. What must be emphasised is that these parties already need the ‘non-party’ label to mobilise the workers, and they use this mobilisation only for their own growth .

The PRP is distinguished by the subtlety of the organisational forms it has created. It not only called allegedly non-party demos, but began by creating an allegedly non-party structure: the CRTSM. It was under this name that it subsequently developed its whole political practice.

The CRTSM are not organs generated directly by the practical needs of workers in struggle. They appeared at the very moment when workers began to feel the need to create new forms of organisation that transcend union and party structures and connect up different struggles in a more significant way. In this period there is not only an impasse in the development of the workers’ autonomous struggles, saturated as they are by the acticity of the parties. The autonomous organisational forms that could develop unity between different struggles have not yet been found by the workers. There is plenty of scope for opportunist intervention.
The need persists for the workers to organise autonomously, without being manipulated by party or union bureaucracies. The rank and file General Assemblies in factories, streets, hospitals, countryside, etc., whether at a local, regional or national level, need to be extended and’ to develop what the Inter-Factory Committees put forward at the start as the emancipation of all workers. They must be democratically elected and subject to instant recall. They should have the function of carrying through in practice what is required at present, and the future aim of destroying the state machine.

The workers will have to struggle against everything and everyone who embodies the perpetuation of this society. There is a whole world of exploitation to overcome, starting with factories, transport, commerce and hospitals and finishing with the state. That is why the workers can only count on their own strength.
They cannot delegate the carrying through of their revolutionary interests to the various deities on the Portuguese scene.

Maurice Brinton – Portuguese Diary (i)

August 24, 2010 4 comments

Solidarity: For Workers’ Power, Vol. 8, No. 3 (December 1975), pp. 17-23

A diary by Maurice Brinton describing some experiences in Portugal during August 1975.

Also see Portuguese Diary (ii).


Evora is at the heart of the Alentejo, and the Alentejo is the heartland of the agrarian revolution. The latifundia are vast and for decades have been neglected. The soil is dry and hard, and upon it grow olives and cork. Wheat and maize would also grow readily if it were ploughed and watered. But this would interfere with the joys of hunting,

It is here that the class struggle has erupted in one of its most advanced forms. The agricultural labourers have seized many of the large estates. In some the former owners have fled, occasionally leaving ‘managers’ to, defend their interests. In others they have remained, seeking to repossess their property through the courts or through direct action. The balance of power varies from village to village, estate to estate.

We sleep on the floor of a large isolated farmhouse about 3 miles out of town. Some 15 Portuguese comrades have been lodging there every night for several months. The farm has been expropriated by the local Institute for Agrarian Reform (IRA) in which libertarian revolutionaries work in uneasy alliance with the representative of the Ministry of Agriculture and members of the local MFA. Their aim is to help the farm workers to solve some of the practical problems which immediately and inevitably crop up in the wake of occupations. The libertarians want to assist, without substituting themselves for those they are seeking to help. It is an almost impossible task.

The farm comprises a large communal living room in which meals are taken at daybreak or sundown. From it passages lead to a number of communicating rooms, stripped of all furniture and fittings, except for mattresses strewn on the floor. There is running water and electricity. There is beer in the fridge and bread and cheese are brought back from the town each day. There are also sten-guns amid the guitars. Dispossessed landlords have threatened to string the young revolutionaries up from the nearest lamp-post at the opportune time, ‘when we return to power’. Under such a threat the wine tastes sweeter and life is lived to the full.

On our first evening we drive out in a jeep some 30 miles to Santana do Campo. The villagers have a problem. They want representatives of the IRA there, ‘to help them bring pressure on the government’. Several farms were occupied in the morning. The owners have paid no wages for several weeks. Two managers were locked up that very afternoon ‘to help the absentee landlord face up to his responsibilities’.

The people are gathered in the local school – 130 agricultural workers with their wives and kids, and quite a number of the old folk. As so often in the countryside, the school is the only public hall. The lights can be seen from a long way off. They illuminate rugged faces, as varied as their owners, and quite unlike the crude stereotyped models of the maoist posters. The whole village has turned up to elect the Council and to decide what to do with the two men incarcerated in the stable. Everyone knows everyone. Anyone over 16 can be nominated and can cast a vote. Little tickets are handed out. Some of the olderwomen decline to take one. Anyone can write anyone else’s name on the slip. The eight people securing the highest number of votes will constitute the Council. Speeches are unnecessary. It is in struggle, over the last few months, that credentials were earned. The selected names are read out by four ‘tellers’, the tickets sorted into little piles. The new Council has been elected.

The main problem is then outlined to the visitors from the Evora IRA. Two opinions emerge: a union representative urges caution. (The Agricultural Workers’ Union is affiliated to Intersindical, the PCP dominated trade union federation. The Minister of Agricultµre, who is sympathetic to the Party, must not be embarrassed.) Others suggest a different course of action. ‘Give them no food or drink. Let the news out. The Bank will cough up soon enough’. No one discusses the PCP or its politics as such. The two alternatives are mutually exclusive. The radical proposal secures a majority. The cheque materialises within 24 hours.

The following day we set out in the jeep, in the full heat of the early afternoon, to visit a big farm where the workers are reluctant to impose any kind of control on the owner. The farm, built in 1945, is beautifully laid out. The main buildings and barns are painted blue and white. Cows are grazing in the fields and watch us pass impassively. Only the turkeys noisily announce Our arrival as the jeep edges its way between them, raising a great cloud of dust.

The farm workers are gathered in a large barn, eight or ten of them, sitting on sacks of grain, talking heatedly. Our party enters three young agronomists from the Evora Institute of Agrarian Reform (with long hair and determined expressions), a young officer in uniform (with even longer hair) and us two political tourists. An excited argument gets under way and lasts about an hour. The local MFA is keen to ensure that the workers elect a committee which would exercise some ‘control’ on the owner and prevent him from doing ‘economic sabotage’ – such as slaughtering cattle, disposing of his tractors or selling the grain (instead of keeping it for sowing). The workers are not convinced. The farm is a ‘model farm’. The boss has maintained reasonable relations with his men, often working among them. The paternalism has had its effects. The men lack confidence. An old, edentulous worker fiercely articulates their innermost fears. ‘If we elect a committee, the boss will sack some of us. Work is hard to come by these days. If we make things difficult for him, will he continue to pay our wages? Come on, young man, yes, you with the gun, answer us. Look at all the problems in the other farms in the area!’, It is strange to see his innate conservatism clash with the vision of the young revolutionaries. The visitors depart: mission unfulfilled.

Later that afternoon we go to another big farm, 35 miles away in the opposite direction. On the way we pass through whitewashed Alentejo villages, bespattered with red slogans. These villages are strongholds
of the PCP. The agricultural workers are natural, genuine, down-to-earth communists. They want to share and share alike. No one seeks individually to appropriate anything. The Party calls itself communist. The workers vote for it. It’s as simple (and as complicated) as that. The inability to read fosters and sustains a fierce radicalism. The workers are not confused by the tortuous ambiguities of the politicians.

The farm, near Oriola, is owned by an absentee Spanish landlord. The last two miles have been very rough track, which only the jeep can Cover. The workers have taken the farm over, despite the government’s half-hearted undertakings not to allow the expropriation of foreign-owned properties. The men have had no pay for tea weeks. There are big stocks of cork, neatly piled up, to be sold. But the lorry has been stolen. There are problems too with the vegetable produce. To be sold in the cities, refrigeration is needed. People are fed up with eating tomatoes.
The Communist Party’s solution to all these problems is simple, eminently ‘practicable’. All occupied farms should become state farms. The Ministry of Agriculture will eventually pay the wages. A state trust will be set up to buy the produce, provide the lorries, look after problems of distribution. The workers are tempted, but instinctively suspicious. They want to get together with other workers on other farms to discuss things with them, to create cooperatives, to deal directly with the population in the towns. They distrust the parasitic officials, sitting in their offices in far-away Lisbon. But they are desperately in need of money to buy shoes, shirts, soap, string, nails and agricultural implements. The men who work the farm over the hill have a tractor which isn’t being used full-time. Will the Army please instruct them to release it for a while? A joint meeting is arranged to thrash things out. The Institute will try to arrange a bridging loan from the local bank. A lorry will be provided to take the cork into the town. Ad hoc solutions are improvised. The wolf is kept from the door for a short while. The Institute has done
a job of first aid. Hope will survive a little longer.

Amid the wasps, an old woman is washing her linen at the fountain.
The crickets are chirping. The sky is unbelievably blue.


The Second Congress of Revolutionary Councils of Workers, Soldiers and Sailors (CRTSM) was held on August 2 and 3, 1975 in Lisbon’s Technological Institute, a vast concrete building at the top of a hill. Posters announcing it (in the best ‘socialist-realist’ style) had broken out like a rash on the, city walls several days beforehand. Once the paste had dried they ripped off easily, to the delight of large contingents of revolutionary tourists in search of souvenirs.

We attended the afternoon session on the second day. At the entrance, a vast display of duplicated literature, distributed free. Posters are on sale, their price escalating rapidly as it becomes obvious that demand will exceed supply.

The foyer is packed with young people. Most look like students and a substantial proportion are not from Portugal – one hears almost as much French and German as Portuguese. Young PRP supporters answer questions. Few relate to work, its problems, its tyranny, its organisation, its transcendence. Most are about Cuba, or Chile, or the political allegiances of this or that Army commander. The answers stress Portuguese particularism. The Army will be with the people. Otelo (Saraiva de Carvalho) has made friendly noises about the PRP.

We go up a flight of wide stone steps, with impressive columns on either side. The meeting is due to start in a vast hall which has doubtless harboured many a degree-giving ceremony or governmental function. Row upon row of wooden chairs. About 600 people present. The same mixture as before. Very few workers (quite a number had apparently been there the ” previous day but had not attended for a second dose). No readily identifiable sailors. Banners on the walls seek nostalgically to recapture the atmosphere – and even the vocabulary – of the Petrograd of 1917: ‘Fora com a canalha! Poder a quem trabalha! – Out with the scum! Power to the workers! Long live the Socialist Revolution’. In the haze of cigarette smoke, the leftists dream on: the Technological Institute is SmolnY; the
Lisnave shipyards, the Putilov plant.

At the far end of the hall an elevated platform, on which a long table has been erected. Seated behind it,perhaps a dozen comrades, most of them bearded, two of them women. In front of the leaders neat stacks of cyclostyled notes. Slightly to one side of the High Table the television crews with their wires, floodlights and other paraphernalia, busy creating images. The 1970s are here, regardless.

The afternoon session starts about an hour late. Several speeches from the platform, most of them lasting half an hour or more. ‘Various analyses’, we are told, ·of the current situation. No interruptions. No laughter. No protests. No cheers. As platform speaker succeeds platform speaker the texts of their ‘contributions’, already duplicated, are handed out by stewards. Only one speaker elicits any enthusiasm – a soldier in civvies. It transpires he is making a ‘critical analysis of a text recently issued by COFCON (the section of the MFA devoted to Internal Security!). Some of the formulations are being challenged in the best tradition of dialectical nit-picking. The legitimacy of that particular fount of revolutionary wisdom is not, however, being questioned.

People quietly drift in and out throughout the proceedings. It is formal, well-behaved, self-disciplined and incredibly dull – an exercise in,’ revolutionary’ masochism. It has upon it the hallmark of death – or rather of a verbose still-birth. The corridors outside are plastered with slogans. The revolution is suffocating under the written word. In the gents’ toilets, amid the usual graffiti, a wit has scrawled PCP = Joaquim
Agostinho (Primeiro Cyclista Portugues).

After 3 hours we drift out. Near the exit we pass a large notice beard. On it are listed the workplaces ‘represented’ at the Congress. It looks impressive: factories of all kinds, transport depots, shipyards,
telephone exchanges, hospitals, banks, shops, offices, all the areas in modern society where people are exploited and oppressed. On direct enquiry however – and after our refusal to accept evasive answers – it was admitted that although members or supporters of the PRP worked in these various places, very few were attending in a delegate capacity. The whole episode left an unpleasant flavour of manipulation.

I doubt we will hear much more of the CRTSM. When the next upsurge develops, it will find different forms and a different content.


Guimaraes is a small industrial town, some 40 miles north of Porto. The Sousabreu textile factory there is typical of many in the region, reflecting many of the problems of Portuguese capitalism.

The factory, which makes towels, was occupied on September 14, 1974, after it had been abandoned by its owner. Earlier in the year the boss, who owned another factory in the town, had begun to move out the more modern dying equipment under pretext of repairs. He had also removed the lorry.

Thirty three workers (22 women and 11 men) had taken over the factory to preserve their livelihood, and decided to continue production. They had had to learn everything from scratch. They bought the cotton at local wholesale rates and sold directly to shopkeepers, to ,visitors, to political sympathisers, and even at the gates of local factories. To start with they had sold part of the stocks to pay their own wages. They had received little help from the local textile and metalworkers sections of Intersindical, which were dominated by the PCP. The Party’s support for self-managed units was highly selective. And Sousabreu was not a unit of which the Party approved.

The workers had elected a Committee of seven which met almost daily. There were, also fairly’ frequent assemblies grouping everyone in the factory. They all worked 48 hours a week. There had been a sustained attempt at equalising earnings. The average wage was 127 escudos (just over £2) a day. The machine minders earned 190 escudos. The newly taken-on apprentice 70 escudos. The main theme discussed at recent general assemblies had been whether to take on more labour.

The factory consisted of a number of large, fairly dilapidated hangers adjoining one another, in one of which the looms were situated. The machines looked at least thirty years old and were noisy and dusty. There were cobwebs, everywhere and little light filtered in. The first task of the socialist revolution would be a sustained attack on capitalist technology. But here there were scarcely funds enough for wages, let alone for modernising the plant.

In the adjoining rooms women were checking the towels, folding them, packing them in plastic cases. The room was brighter and they spoke to one another. I approached a woman in her forties Who had worked there for 15 years. What was now different? ‘For one’, she said, ‘there are no longer foremen breathing down your neck. There used to be 3 foremen in this room alone.. We now decide the pace of our own work, and no longer live in fear of displeasing someone. We run the place ourselves. If I want to go ‘-shopping one afternoon, or if one of the children is ill, we can consult together and have a little time off, without loss of earnings. No one takes advantage. We know that our collective livelihood depends on producing a certain number of towels each month’.

Adversity had bred a firm solidarity. When earnings were low, the most needy had, been provided for first. Everyone seemed aware. Of the others’ problems. Recently things had not been too bad. This year, for the first time ever, they had enjoyed a fortnight’s holiday with pay.

Their main complaints were about the way people deformed the meaning of what they were doing. Their wall posters showed an intense awareness of their own condition. There can be few factories in the world plastered with excerpts from Marx’s ‘Philosophical Manuscripts‘. They knew well enough that they were still wage slaves, that what was being self-managed was their own alienation. They worked harder now than they did before. But they had gained a confidence in themselves that they had not felt previously. They had held ’round table’ discussions with representatives of other self-managed factories to establish links and to exchange both experiences and products. They had even bartered shirts for towels, one of them told us with a twinkle in his eye. They had discovered a great deal about the functioning of capitalist society which would be of use to them ,’When the real time came’. They had also learned very quickly about the trade unions, which had refused to help them or had only damned them with faint praise. Above all, they had learned a lot about themselves.


The PCP headquarters in Famalicao, north of Porto, lie shattered. Before April 1974 it was widely believed by those in power that literacy bred subversion. There was only one place in the town where the wealthy could obtain secondary education: an expensive private school, solidly built and set behind a row of tall trees.

With the collapse of the Caetano regime the building had been taken over by the local PCP cell. I couldn’t help thinking what an ideal Stalinist redoubt it made, separated by its high walls, from the bustle of the multitude, set on higher ground, its impressive drive redolent with respectability. From here the Party had carried out its manipulations of local government, of trade union branches, of cooperatives, of the granting of agricultural credit. The reaction had been handed things on a plate.*

After an open air meeting, early in August, a crowd protesting against the unrepresentative nature of several local bodies had set siege to the school and tried to burn it down. Party militants had fired from the upper windows, injuring two demonstrators. The MFA had arrived on the scene to ‘restore order’ (their fire had killed two more demonstrators).

MFA interventions in such episodes had, we were told, been interesting to watch. At times the soldiers would threaten the crowd with their weapons, turning their backs on the besieged stalinists. On other occasions they would turn their backs to the crowd, confronting the Party members with their guns. Attitudes had varied from locality to locality, regiment to regiment, moment to moment,. At Famalicao the soldiers had faced the crowd, seeking to restrain it. After a siege of 48 hours the local Party stalwarts had been ordered by Party Headquarters in Lisbon to evacuate the premise. The Army had then left almost immediately. During the whole siege there had bean no sign of working class support in the town, not even a token strike. The institutions controlled by the Party apparatus were empty shells.The Party had no roots in real life.

Popular anger had then erupted. The place looked as if it had been hit by a tornado. An overturned car, burnt out, lay grotesquely in the road outside. The drive was littered with charred papers, posters, Party cards. A disconsolate leaflet announcing a meeting that was never to take place. In the building itself every window had been broken. Searchlights installed on the upper balcony had been smashed. Not a stick of furniture, not a fitting remained. The place was now unguarded. Visitors were strolling about, looking at the debris. They had to step carefully for the ‘victors’ had left shit allover the place.
The MRPP (maoists) issued a statement welcoming ‘the people’s_retribution against the social-fascists’. It wasn’t however as simple-as that. The red flag had been burned. A Portuguese flag now stuck out provocatively from an attic window. Beneath it, a large inscription proclaimed ‘Building to be taken over for refugees from Angola’.

*The reaction already had an economic and ideological base in the North (based on the structure of land tenure, on the fears of impoverished small farmers of being rendered poorer still, and on systematic propaganda by the Church.