Capitalism, as a world system, has long entered into its historical decline. Despite the appearences and all the attempts to portray it as an unsurmountable (although perfectible) mode of production, it is undergoing a crisis that is structural and which knows no solution within the framework of the system. What is needed is its replacement by a superior mode of production, that can harmonize the productive forces and the relations of production; that can liberate the enormous potential for social and human progress contained in the scientific and technological revolution; that can overcome the antagonistic contradiction between capital and labour; that can put an end to millenia of societies based on the exploitation of man by man — what is needed is the socialist society. The requirement to overcome capitalism is not new. Capitalism’s entry into its imperialist stage — which Lenin characterized in his famous work “Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism” — opened a new epoch of social revolutions. The 1905 Russian revolution, the centenary of which we are celebrating, is already an expression of this reality in the concrete conditions of Czarist Russia. But it was the great October Socialist Revolution that translated the necessary socialist alternative into a concrete undertaking, inaugurating the epoch of the transition from capitalism to socialism. It is in this epoch that we live and struggle today.
The defeats of the USSR and of socialism in Europe have given new wind to capitalism. In the class confrontation — within each country and on an international level — the revolutionary and anti-imperialist component has become much weaker, phenomena of liquidationism and reformist adaptation have grown, violent campaigns on “the demise of communism” and “the irreversible decline of Communist Parties” have been unleashed. It has not been, and it is still not, easy to resist the tide of obscurantist anti-communism, to defend the truth and the honour of the working-class and communist movement vis a vis the campaigns of historical falsification, to keep alive the values and ideals of socialism and communism. But to resist is to win. Although weakened and dispersed, the Communist movement is a reality that asserts itself and that has conditions to recover its place in the front rank of the liberation struggle.
Life itself has shown that the defeats of socialism have not made the world safer, more humane or just. On the contrary. Capitalism’s intrinsically exploitative and aggressive nature has been revealed in an even more brutal way. Social injustice and inequalities have become greater; the drama of unemployment, of hunger, of disease, has taken on an unprecedented scale; the offensive against the rights and achievements won by the workers throughout many decades of harsh struggles has become widespread; environmental problems are becoming more acute; the number of tension spots has been multiplied and interference in the internal affairs of the peoples has become even more systematic and brazen; militarism has grown and imperialism has taken war to various corners of the world. At the same time, the centralization and concentration of capital and of wealth, as well as their power, have grown to unprecedented levels, while the financialization of the economy and the growing economic importance of arms and drug trafficking, as well as of other criminal business, have further enhanced the system’s parasitic, decadent and criminal nature.
It is in this context, and inspired by an evident spirit of revenge, that imperialism is seeking to impose a “new order” which, enshrining a balance of forces that favours it, may legitimize its offensive to recolonize the planet. What is occurring is a strong-armed response to the crisis of capitalism and to the acute contradictions that are affecting the contemporary world. The goal is to violently repress the inevitable explosions of social discontent and protest. The goal is to smother the resistance and struggle of the workers and the peoples, and if possible, to destroy in the womb any process of progressive and revolutionary transformation. That is the essence of the so-called “war on terrorism”, of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan and Iraq, of militarism (which, from Germany and the European Union bloc to Japan is accelerating in a disquieting way), of the growing attacks against fundamental rights and freedoms (from the “Patriot Act” in the USA to the European Union-led security measures), of the criminalization of Resistance and the promotion of obscurantist and reactionary forces – all this seeking to impose a brutal intensification of the rates of exploitation.
This is where lies the alpha and the omega of capitalism’s crisis and of the need to overcome it. The dangerous regressions that are becoming widespread in the contemporary world result from the very dynamics of reproduction of the capitalist system, which is based on the logic of accumulation and on the realization of maximum profits. Scientific and technological progress, with the growing organic composition of capital and the tendential decline in the rate of profit, enters into contradiction with the interests of not just the working class, but of the overwhelming majority of the population. War and the trend towards commodifying all spheres of social life are jeopardizing Humankind itself.
More than ever, the alternative is for the working class and its allies to take power, undertake profound social and economic transformations (attacking the very heart of capital, socializing the large economic and financial groups that control political power, setting up anti-monopolistic property relations), to create a socialist society where (drawing lessons from past and present experience in building a new society) the bourgeois State is replaced by a profoundly democratic State that can stimulate and ensure the direct and creative activity of the masses of the people in the process of building their own destiny. This task, which experience has proved to be extremely difficult to fulfill, is nonetheless the central task. Without it, the irreversibility of the process cannot be ensured. The well-known Marxist aphorism “the emancipation of the workers can only be won by the workers themselves” also means this, until the day when, in an as of yet unpredictable fashion and time, the State finally gives way to “the administration of things”.
We speak, of course, of a global and universal alternative to the “globalized” capitalism of our days. An alternative which is not yet on the agenda, but which despite that, is no less necessary and the prospect of which must, in the PCP’s opinion, be present in the current battles against capital. An alternative which necessarily requires the struggle on a national level, which is an unavoidable context for the class struggle and the struggle for social transformation. But which, simultaneously — in times when the mechanisms of capitalist domination are increasingly implemented on an international level — requires stronger solidarity and the internationalist cooperation of the Communists, of progressives, of the workers and peoples. Which is aware of the fact that we are still living through times of resistance and gathering strength, and that the path towards alternatives of social progress and socialism requires a persistant work of building the vanguard Party and the many bonds that must attach it to the working class and the masses. But which at the same time — and this can be considered “the thesis of all theses” of our 17th Congress regarding the world view of the Portuguese Communists — considers that in the current situation of instability and uncertainty, imperialism’s violent offensive and the ensuing perils for Humankind coexist with a strong resistance and enormous potential for progressive and revolutionary developments. Advances and victories are possible, as in Cuba and Venezuela, and on a different level, as with the success of the French and Dutch “No” votes to the so-called European Constitution. At the same time, we are witnessing important processes of realignment of forces, and realities such as China are asserting themselves and playing a growing role in the international arena and in containing the hegemonistic designs of the USA and of imperialism as a whole.
From the point of view of the objective situation, never before have capitalism’s basic contradictions been so acute, has its incapacity to solve the problems of the contemporary world been so blatantly obvious, has its social basis of support been so narrow. But capitalism will never fall on its own, without the revolutionary, conscienscious and determined intervention by the masses. That is why it is necessary, in the current phase of resistance and accumulation of strength, to give special attention to the creation of the subjective conditions — ideological, political, organizational — which are essential for that intervention. This requires an extremely intense struggle of ideas, both against reaction and imperialism and within the democratic camp itself. This is particularly true on the issue of the decisive importance of Marxist-Leninist theory, on the need for a revolutionary Party, on the role of the working class and class-based trade unionism, on the issues of power and of property in the process of transformation, as well as on the assessment of the working-class and Communist movement’s history. The crisis affecting social-democracy as a result of its surrender to the dogmas of neo-liberalism and its transformation into a pillar of capitalism, opens up space for the strengthening of Communists.
These are some of the fundamental theses of the PCP’s 17th Congress regarding the international situation, capitalism’s evolution and the Communists’ alternative, which we think deserve to be stressed in our Meeting.
They are theses which the Portuguese situation confirms in broad terms.
On the economic and social level: an economic stagnation; capital’s parasitic and predatory nature, with the scandalous privatization of the public sector and the State’s social functions; the destruction of the productive apparatus and the transfer of key sectors of the economy to foreign capital; an offensive against workers’ rights, increased unemployment and poverty, increasingly precarious labour relations, lower wages and income, longer working hours and higher retirement age; a brutal social polarization with the banks and largest economic groups reaping unprecedented profits; a deliberate activity to divide and weaken the class-based trade unions.
On the political level: growing restrictions on democracy and laws which, like the law on political parties, the planned election laws and other measures, are shaping up, in an increasingly disturbing way, to be a veritable subversion of the democratic regime.
On the level of foreign relations: an acritical acceptance of neo-liberal guidelines and the impositions of international big business, a submission to the diktats of NATO, of the USA and the EU, and Portugal’s involvment in imperialism’s strategy of aggression and war.
This is the result of nearly thirty years of policies by the right-wing and by social-democracy, policies which the current Socialist Party government is carrying even further, generating growing discontent and popular protests, which were reflected in the results of last October’s local government elections, in which our Party scored a significant victory and, above all, in numerous struggles by the jost diverse sectors of Portuguese society and in the great day of action of November 10, organized by CGTP, the Portuguese workers’ unity and class-based trade union central.
The alternative which the Portuguese Communists indicate for Portugal is socialism. In Portuguese capitalism’s current phase, it is increasingly evident that only socialism can liberate the productive forces, develop the country and give answers to the problems and yearnings of the workers and of the overwhelming majority of the Portuguese people.
However, the analysis of the balance of forces on the national, European and international level results in the PCP’s Programme not placing socialism as an immediate task, but rather an “Advanced Democracy” which is simultaneously economic, social, political and cultural and which, incorporating the values and experiences of the liberating revolution of April 25, 1974, places socialism on the horizon. It is true that the Portuguese revolution — which the Party’s programme characterizes as an “unfinished revolution” — was defeated, and that the monopolies’ economic power (as well as the submission to imperialism) has been restored, with the real threat of subversion of the political regime that emerged from the revolution. But it is not possible to historically erase the depth of its impact.
At present, the Portuguese Communists’ struggle is geared to breaking with the right-wing policies that have been implemented for many years now, with shifting alliances and convergences, by the PS, PSD and CDS, and for a left-wing alternative. This requires the permanent defense of the short-term interests of the workers and of other anti-monopoly classes and strata; strengthening the class-based trade union movement and other structures of the people’s movement; unfolding the mass struggle as a priority for action, together with the activity within the institutions of Local Government, in the Assembly of the Republic [Parliament], and in the European Parliament. Strengthening the Party and its links with the working class and the masses of the people is, for us, a requirement for success in the struggle and the key to an alternative. To overcome delays, broaden our ranks, nurture our roots in the companies and other workplaces, in a context of speedy and profound social and economic transformations, is of the greatest importance. On an international level, it is of particular importance to defend national sovereignty; to fight against the European Union’s impositions and for a different Europe, of peace and cooperation among sovereign States that are equal in rights; to fight against imperialism’s quest for world domination.
The fact that our first responsibility is towards the Portuguese people and the priority given to the national framework do not lead us to view our struggle in a self-sufficient, narrow or “nationalistic” way. On the contrary, we view the Portuguese people’s struggle as an integral part of the general process of emancipation of the workers and the peoples, and we view stronger relations of cooperation and internationalist solidarity, first and forejost among the Communists, as not just a duty, but an objective necessity of the struggle against capital.
Giving priority to the cooperation geared towards action for concrete goals and to international initiatives against neo-liberalism and war, the PCP — whilst disagreeing with supra-national forms of organization — has long defended the need for more stable forms of liaison between Communist and other revolutionary parties. But the delays in this sphere cannot be overcome by hasty solutions with a federalist-style rationale, with “majorities” and “minorities”, ignoring the great diversity of situations that exist. Contrarily to what happens with, for example, the “European left party”, in which the PCP does not participate and in relation to which we have a very critical stance, what is needed are solutions of unity, that respect the sovereignty and identity of all, that bring together and not that create additional difficulties and fractures.
Hence, our positive assessment of the relevance and usefulness of this Meeting, and our willingness to examine new possibilities of joint or converging actions by the Communists and other left-wing and anti-imperialist forces. The struggle against the offensive of exploitation by big business, and to defend workers’ rights and social and economic achievements; the struggle to defend democratic rights and against fascistic and anti-Communist measures and laws (as is the case of the provocative Report that is being discussed in the Council of Europe); the struggle against war and the active solidarity with the peoples that are victims of imperialist aggression and interference; are important directions of internationalist cooperation that we should explore. The international Meeting that we will host in Lisbon, in March of next year, on the occasion of the PCP’s 85th anniversary, addressing the topic “Europe and the European Union: realities, experiences of struggle and new opportunities of transformation”, is a contribution for the necessary strengthening of our internationalist cooperation.