Autor: Binder, David. 
 European Community.     Página: 42-44. Páginas: 3. Párrafos: 16. 


DAVID BINDER, diplomatic correspondent in The New York Times Washington bureau

The triumph of Portugal´s modérate Socialists over their Communist and extreme

Left adversaries in November-December 1975 marks an extraordinary turn of events

in the postwar political history of Europe. For the first time in an open arena

Social Democrats succeeded in defeating a drive for power by a Communist Party

and its military and pólice allies. The reverse of the situation of

Czechoslovakia in 1948, when the Social Democratic majority was overwhelmed by a

Communist minority strengthened by pólice and military might. Not to mention

Hungary and East Germany, where parallel Communist "victories" took place under

the aegis of Soviet occupation armies.

It is in large part the saga of Mario the Navigator. For Mario Soares, the

Portuguese Socialist leader, has proven to be a political counterpart of the

fifteenth century patrón of seafarers. Prince Henry the Navigator—steering his

party of explorers safely past the dangerous shoals of unequal collaboration

with the Communists and away from the winds of suspicion emanating from

Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

His success, the success of the Portuguese Socialists, has already had a

stinging impact on the strategy and tactics of what the Soviet Union likes to

call "The International Communist and Workers Movement." The forcé of his

example—evolutionary political change with a minimum of civil strife and

bloodshed—has not been lost on neighboring Spain, which is tremulously entering

the post-Franco era. Beyond this, the Portuguese Socialist success has notable

implications for the whole of Western Europe — not only in the context of the

European left, but also in terms of the European Community. For the Common

Market has been much more than an interested observer of the Portuguese scene

since a group of armed forces officers ousted the moribund authoritarian

government that was the heritage of over four decades of Salazar dictatorship,

in April 1974.

In the following months it was frequently postulated in Europe and the United

States that Portugal was a special case which, because of its peculiarities,

could not be compared to or modeled after other European political developments.

With its vast colonial empire still intact from the Indian Ocean to the

Atlantic, with semi-feudal practices still present in social and economic life,

there was much to commend this view of Portugal´s uniqueness. Yet there were

other elements strongly linking Portugal to the rest of Western Europe, to the

modern world. There was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. There was the

participation of more than 1 million Portuguese workers in the economies of

France and West Germany. Finally, there was Mario Soares, whose Socialist Party

was established in exile in 1973 at Münstereigel under the patronage of Willy

Brandt, chairman of the Social Democratíc Party of Germany and then chancellor

of the Federal Republic. Through this connection Soares became a protege not

only of the Germán Social Democrats but also of the ruling Social Democratic or

Labor parties of Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and

Austria. They provided him with financial assistance, counsel, and moral support

throughout the arduous winter and spring when his young and scarcely tested

party formations faced mounting threats and curtailments from the Communists and

their allies in the then dominant Armed Forces Movement.

Because of their influential position in the EC Nine, the ruling Social

Democratic parties of Western Europe were also in a position to make the cause

of Soares and the other Portuguese democrats a European cause in the context of

the Common Market, and more. When Brandt traveled to Washington in March to call

on Ford and Kissinger, he pleaded for support of the Portuguese Socialists as a

Social Democrat and as a European Community politician. (He had been out of

office as chancellor for almost a year.) The American leaders listened to him.

Brandt´s assessment was vindicated within days when the Portuguese Socialists

scored an overwhelming victory in the constituent assembly elections of April

1975. The Soares party, together with the small Popular Democrats, got 64.2 per

cent—the Communists and their far-left allies, less than 18 per cent of the

popular vote. Now, at least, Soares had a mándate. Following a thorough

reappraisal in Washington, sparked mainly by the bold reporting and requests of

Ambassador Frank C. Carlucci, he also obtained grudging support from the Ford

Administration—including a trickle of modest, covert funds funneled in by the

Central Intelligence Agency.

But it was a pittance compared to the $2 million or more a month being supplied

to the Portuguese Communist Party by the Soviet Bloc. The PCP was led by Alvaro

Cunhal, a fiery orator, and a man who had learned militancy in the prisons of

Salazar and the chilly climes of East European exile. Like any good Communist,

Cunhal wanted to win. His first move in 1974 was to put himself, and his 1,000

or so cadres just emerged from illegality or exile, in league with the dreamy

utopian Socialists of the Armed Forces Movement.

Cunhal was under instructions from Moscow to go slow, to go gently, and to make

something more than a pretense of "popular front" policy vis-á-vis the

Socialists. It was more than an evocation of the popular front tactic proclaimed

in 1935 by Stalin´s Comintern (briefly followed in León Blum´s France and then

hideously distorted in Spain during the Civil War when the Communists

exterminated the noncommunist left leaders of the POUM and of the Social

Democrats). Indeed, it was a recognition of the realities of the Communist-

Socialist alliance in France and the attempts of the Communist Party of Italy to

have their electoral strength legitimized in coalition with the Christian

Democrats at the national level.

But Cunhal paid only lip service to the popular front concept in Portugal, and

only for a short time. With the bitter taste of April´s humiliating election

defeat still in his mouth, he made cause against the Soares party together with

militant leftists in the Armed Forces Movement, squelching the newspaper

República and menacing the demonstrations of the Socialists. By early summer the

orthodox Communists of the Soviet Bloc were saying privately that Cunhal was "a

disaster" for the cause of Communism in Portugal—that he had "gone too far, too

fast," as Soviet Bloc diplomáis told me in July and again in September. They

were appalled by the cynical interview he had given Oriana Fallaci, the

brilliant Italian repórter, in which he declared that Portugal would never have

a parliamentaty democracy.

In desperation after the moderates forced the dismissal of Premier Vasco

Goncalves in August, Cunhal committed a cardinal ideológical sin. While

maintaining ties to the swiftly dwindling group of leftists in the Armed Forces

Movement, he joined up with armed formations of extreme leftists —the League for

Union and Revolutionary Action and the Movement for a Socialist Left. This was

tantamount to an alliance with Trotskyites. From Moscow´s point of view, nothing

Cunhal had done before could measure up to such a monstrosity, for Trotsky

remains anathema to Moscow, 35 years after his death.

Ideology aside, the alliance of Cunhal´s Communists with the extreme left

groupings proved disastrous in the abortive coup of December, which was crushed

by the armed forces´ modérate wing and the Government of Prime Minister José

Pinheiro de Azevedo. The failure of the coup has left Cunhal´s battered

Communist cadres in disrepute and greatly reduced in number.

As if in anticipation of Cunhal´s defeat, the Communist leaders´of France and

Italy, George Marcháis and Enrico Berlinguer, met in Rome November 17 to issue a

joint declaration charting a "democratic path to socialism" through participaron

in parliamentary systems. The pledge ran counter to the latest Soviet thesis

which held that some Western Communist parties were running the danger of losing

their identities by taking part in coalitions with bourgeois parties. Thus, in

Moscow´s view, the Portuguese experiment had created equally evil polarities on

the West European Communist scene—with Cunhal going too far left, and Marcháis

and Berlinguer going too far right.

There was one more ideological peculiarity spawned by the Portuguese

development. Early on, the leftist naifs of the military called theirs the

"Portuguese Revolution." The coinage was quickly picked up by Cunhal´s

Communists and others of the political left who surely knew better in terms of

Marxist-Leninist doctrine. No one with a smidgeon of Marxist background could

pretend that bloodless seizure of power by a few hundred discontented officers

from a fatigued and virtually helpless bourgeois clique represented


There was nothing in Portugal resembling "class struggle" or "the conscious

organized activity of the masses" even after a year of street demonstrations and

pseudo-Marxist rhetoric. Ñor could the Communist Party opérate as "the vanguard"

of a working class that did not exist in a coherent form. Rather, in Marxist

terms, Portugal remained at a "pre-revolutionary" stage of "bourgeois

democracy"—even after the banks were nationalized, some farm land collectivized,

and some business firms put under state control. In terms of economic-social

organization, post-coup Portugal was closer to anarchy than it was to any form

of socialism.

Today, one can still read in the Soviet Bloc press of the "revolutionary" and

"counterrevolutionary" forces in Portugal. But this talk has been increasingly

muted since November, implying that Moscow no longer entertains hopes of a new

friend on the shore of Iberia, for the time being.

But the victory of Soares and his allies is tenuous, nevertheless. The economy

lies in wreckage; there are several hundred thousand refugees from Angola

crowding hotels and makeshift barracks in Lisbon and northern cities. Thousands

of demobilized soldiers are jobless, while Portuguese workers returning from

inflationridden Northern Europe are also swelling the ranks of the unemployed.

This leaves fruitful ground for extremists to cultívate.

All the more important, then, is delivery of the aid promised by numerous

Western countries and institutions—$187 million by the European Community, $85

million by the United States, and loans and credits from the World Bank and

International Monetary Fund. For that matter, the United States has indicated it

would give upward of $400 million in development credits to Portugal as part of

a new agreement on American military bases in the Azores, which has yet to be


In terms of the viability of parliamentary democracy and the future of Western

Europe as a political-economic entity, there is no investment today of more

importance than Portugal. For Soares, the Portuguese navigator, rías charted a

new route of political change under the most adverse circunstances—a leaky old

ship tacking against contrary winds. His achievement signifies that Europeans in

other economically backward regions of Spain, Greece, Turkey, and Italy need not

turn in desperation to social violence or to armed revolution in the Marxist-

Leninist mold. Evolution is still possible, Soares has shown.

44 EUROPEAN COMMUNITY January-February 1976


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