Sunday, 31 May 2020

Interview with Merilyn Moos & Steve Cushion On Anti Nazi Germans


Authors Merilyn Moos and Steve Cushion kindly agreed to be interviewed for A Trumpet of Sedition blog about their new book Anti Nazi Germans which came out in 2020.

Q.Tell me a bit about how you and Merilyn came to write the book. Why did you decide to write it?

Merilyn:

Both of us were involved in writing articles for a Socialist History publication: Treason: Rebel Warriors and Internationalist Traitors, but I kept complaining to Steve I needed more words. So he suggested we write a book! This is a topic which also grew out of my family history: my father was an active and socialist German anti-Nazi who fled and lived. But many of his comrades did not, and I wanted to draw attention to the reality of grass-roots German resistance to Nazism.

Steve:

On a cycling holiday in France, 20 years ago, I visited the Resistance Museum in Tulle in the Coreze. There I saw a picture of a young German communist who had fought in the local maquis. The more I looked into it, the more German antifascists in the French resistance I came across. They do not fit the standard nationalist received wisdom and I felt their story needed to be told, particularly today when we are seeing an upsurge of very nasty nationalism. I think we need to big up those courageous militants who put socialist politics before the nation of their birth.

Q.The book completely cuts across current historiography regarding Fascism and the Holocaust could you elaborate your opinion on current historiography. I am thinking about books like Hilter's willing executioners- by Daniel Goldhagen.
Merilyn:

The historiography of the Nazi period has shifted many times since 1945. But the Eichmann trial and the increasing domination by Israel overt the Middle East legitimated a new take on Nazism: that it was the Jews who were the Nazis' main target and moreover, that most Germans, if not perpetrators, were 'bystanders'. But even superficial research into the early years of the Nazi Party reveals that from the very beginning their main target was the organised working class.

Moreover, Steve and I unearthed a myriad of stories of what can loosely be called the 'resistance', almost all of whom were killed, Their stories were rarely told because the West German historians got sucked into a Cold War narrative and the East German historians needed to follow a line which did not always support the level of local autonomy of the anti-Nazi KPD members.

There has been a further shift towards seeing Jews as 'victims' which justified any crimes that Israel committed. In fact, with minute exceptions, the many 'historical Jews' who were involved in the struggle against Nazism did so as part of, generally, a Communist movement, and sometimes, as anarchists etc, not primarily as Jews. The old adage that Jews went like sheep to the slaughter is as false as that most Germans were bystanders.

Steve:

Nationalism and an assumption of patriotism have always dominated historical writing, but it seems to have got worse lately. This has led to an irritating, sloppy style of writing that conflates the country, the state and the population as one entity. Thus "Germany invaded Poland", rather than "The German army invaded Poland on the instructions of the Nazi government". I would argue for the need to reassert the division of any country into classes with separate economic and political interests.

Modern mainstream historical writing, when it is not just old wine in new, post-modernist bottles, is still very much concerned with the doings of great men; the only recent change has been to include a few great women. I am much influenced by Howard Zinn's concept of People's History. Most historians use the study of history to reinforce the status quo, Zinn's approach is aimed at undermining the system by promoting the activities of ordinary people who have chosen to resist the rich and powerful as well as fighting for their rights.

Zinn warned of "attempts, through politics and culture, to ensnare ordinary people in a giant web of nationhood pretending to a common interest". Looking at those who opposed their own nation-state in times of war seemed a good way to undermine the pernicious effects of nationalism and patriotism. Such is the ideological power of nationalism that most people feel uncomfortable with such treason, even when the country they betrayed was Nazi Germany. My section of the book chronicles how German refugees contributed to fighting the Nazis in France.  From  spreading  anti-Nazi  propaganda  in  the  German  Army  and  attempting  to organise mutiny and desertion, through to extensive involvement in urban terrorism and the rural guerrilla struggle. This is history from below that primarily looks at active resistance originating within the workers' movement, looking at the actual activities of the rank and file anti-Nazi militants and in the process rescuing the memory of some heroic fighters who otherwise risk being lost from history. An important part of people's history is the history of ordinary people.

For example, Mendel Langer, a Roumanian immigrant worker, was the leader of the 35th Brigade of a communist resistance organisation, the FTP-MOI, which operated in the area around Toulouse in the South of France. He was captured in February 1943. At his trial, the prosecutor, Pierre Lespinasse said: "You are a Jew, a foreigner and a communist, three reasons for you to be executed". Langer was guillotined in July 1943 but, on 10 October, as avocat-général Pierre Lespinasse was on his way to Mass, he was gunned down in the street by Enzo Lorenzi, one of Langer's comrades. The Vichy government had set up special anti-terrorism courts in 1941, but Norbert Kugler, a German communist exile of Jewish heritage, who commanded all the foreign fighters in Southern France, developed the tactic of shooting the magistrates who condemned their comrades to death, which had the effect of making it much more difficult to find lawyers willing to serve on these sections spéciales. Such people are an inspiration to me.

Q.The collaboration between the KPD and SA I knew a little about it but could you expand a bit more on this?

Merilyn:

One has to be very careful here. Some rightish historians use this 'collaboration' to suggest that there was little difference between the Nazi Party and the KPD, a position we reject.. This is not an area I specialise in but there are two levels  at which there was some sort of collaboration: at the level of the Party leadership and at a membership level. Remember that both organisations were in general drawing from the same pool of people, especially the unemployed (though the SA drew from the petty-bourgeoisie more than did the KPD). The KPD leadership became frightened of their members or those close to them being attracted by the Nazis and adopted policies to try to collaborate with them eg over the Berlin transport strike. But it went right down to the level of the membership and community organisations where, occasionally, pre-1933, Nazi and KPD members would be working together. members of the KPD would join the Nazi party just to be on the safe side (not against Party rules) and would pull out the relevant party card depending on circumstance. In practice, this allowed a slow slide towards the victorious, SA/Nazi side. As my father would remind me: 'Always remember Nazism stands for National Socialism', a perspective which is proving rather too relevant presently. Even after the Nazi take-over in 1933, the KPD line was to enter the Nazi trade-unions. Needless to say, this line of cooperation was bitterly opposed by many KPD members.

Steve:

If we write off workers who are currently attracted to nationalist ideas as lost to us, we are ourselves lost. We have to find a way of winning these workers to adopt a class-first position. To me, collaborating with right-wing nationalist, racist and fascist organisations is a road to disaster. The attitude of the German Communist Party to the SA was a very serious error, but the problem still remains - How do we win patriotic workers to a socialist, internationalist position? By writing about the errors of the past, we can hopefully not make the same mistake again. We shall obviously make new mistakes, but let us not repeat the old ones.

As you write at the end of the book, we are once again confronted with the rise of fascism in Germany today. Please tell me about your analysis.

Merilyn:

Two years ago, I was invited to speak at a commemoration at Brandenburg for the victims of euthanasia (T4) who were gassed there in 1940 (including my aunt). It was held on a patch of ground next to where the gassing had taken place before an invited and very respectable gathering and I could not make out why it was quite so subdued. Then I gathered that there were two members of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) present, who had been invited because they were on the local council.

The organisers were however upset with three uninvited people who were standing on the edge of the gathering with their banner which read something like 'Down with the AfD' and called over the local police to move them away. So the two people I was staying with and I walked up to the demonstrators. I had been the main speaker, so carried some 'weight' and the police,  observing me walking up and standing right next to them, swerved away. I then confronted the organiser as to why the AfD had been invited. The organiser shrugged and said something like: 'All councillors were invited. What was I supposed to do?'

I tell this story because of what it reveals: it is not just that the AfD were elected councillors, able to pose as 'mourners (and yes, they did lay a wreath though it was their political predecessors who had murdered the people we were commemorating) but that the organisers saw them as legitimate, unlike the antifascists. Now, what period of twentieth-century German history does this remind me of?
Steve:

The rise of PEGIDA and the Alternative für Deutschland is very worrying. It is part of a worldwide pattern whereby authoritarian politicians use racism, nationalism and islamophobia to secure their position. These are often mass-movements, although, at present, they differ from the classic fascism of the 30s and 40s by, generally speaking, not relying on organised gangs of thugs, at least not to the extent of the Nazis or the Italian Fascists. But this is only because the working-class movement is relatively weaker and the bourgeoisie have not been thoroughly scared by something like the Russian revolution.

Of course, when they feel threatened they do not hesitate, witness Narendra Modi's use of the fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to smash up Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi in January of this year.

In Germany, a combination of anti-refugee, anti-immigrant and Islamophobic politics has given a considerable boost to the extreme right, while the hand wringing of the social democrats has done little to turn the tide.

Q.I know the book was published this year have you had much feedback or reviews. Has there been any response in academia?

Merilyn:

This was a book written by socialists for socialists. We need to remind comrades that even struggling against Nazism was possible and that we must stop anything like Nazism ever happening again. We've had lots of reviews in a variety of leftish publications, almost all glowing.

Steve:

Yes, the left press has been very kind. Given that the bookshops are shut, this has been very useful to us. We had a series of meetings planned, some of them organised by radical history groups, others in higher or further education institutions. The virus has put a stop to these, but we shall go for a relaunch when the current public health emergency is over. Meanwhile, we are most grateful for the publicity provided by comrades writing blogs and recommending it on social media.

Moreover, when the public health situation allows, it is my intention to write to as many German and French university departments as I can find to see if they are interested in the book and offering to speak at their institutions. We are interested in taking the debate into the academic community, let us see if there is a response.

Q.What are you working on next? Also, could you tell me a bit about your political background?

Merilyn:

I am doing a short book on the anti-Nazis who got out of Germany and came to the UK. My focus is on rank and file activists not left bureaucrats. And not on the people who became famous. They have enough publicity. But rank and file anti-Nazis who lived here have almost all been ignored. I have started to put a series of short biographies on the website of our book "Anti-Nazi Germans". http://community-languages.org.uk/?cat=3.

My parents never talked of their pasts, and I had to piece it together for myself but I knew my father had been an anti-Nazi activist and I was very proud of that. I joined IS soon after university and stayed in for about 20 years.I also was very active in the further and higher education union: Branch Secretary for ages, plus on varying committees up to national level. I was almost thrown out for running an anti-racist campaign for a victimised black lecturer. Since retirement, I've been free-floating, though, insofar as health allows, active in the UCU Retired Members Branch and around anti-racism.

Steve:

I am currently writing a pamphlet on the miners' strikes in Northern France and Belgium in 1941. French historiography spills a lot of ink asking is these strikes count as "resistance". This is not my perspective. I am looking at the class struggle in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais from the perspective of the miners, engineers and textile workers of the region, the history of their militancy in the face of German army occupation, French fascist collaborators and skinflint, greedy employers. This is working-class resistance.

I joined the International Socialists in 1971 but managed to get myself expelled by 1975. Since then, I have been a trade union militant, for 20 years on the London buses and for 10 in NATFHE. I am currently Branch Secretary of UCU London Retired Members and delegate to Waltham Forest Trades Union Council. I am on the executive of Caribbean Labour Solidarity and on the committee of the Socialist History Society. I am a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Unite against Fascism.

Copies of the book can be purchased post-free from the authors. £10 – more details from s.cushion23@gmail.com


Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Review: A People's History of the Russian Revolution-Neil Faulkner-Pluto Press-£11.50-2017.


Neil Faulkner's book was one of many books released in time for the celebration the centenary of the Russian revolution in 2017. A large number of new books broke no new ground and contained little new research. Unfortunately, Faulkner's book was one of these.

The book gives the reader only a basic account of the Russian revolution. Faulkner, a former member of the Psuedo Left, group SWP(Socialist Workers Party), maintains the SWP's viewpoint that after the first workers' state succumbed to Stalinism a state capitalist regime appeared.

This viewpoint is not an orthodox Marxist one. Leon Trotsky wrote extensively on the betrayal of the Russian revolution by Stalin. In his most famous of works on Stalinism he wrote :

"We often seek salvation from unfamiliar phenomena in familiar terms. An attempt has been made to conceal the enigma of the Soviet regime by calling it "state capitalism." This term has the advantage that nobody knows exactly what it means. The term "state capitalism" originally arose to designate all the phenomena which arise when a bourgeois state takes direct charge of the means of transport or industrial enterprises. The very necessity of such measures is one of the signs that the productive forces have outgrown capitalism and are bringing it to a partial self-negation in practice. But the outworn system, along with its elements of self-negation, continues to exist as a capitalist system.

But if a socialist government is still necessary for the preservation and development of the planned economy, the question is all the more important, upon whom the present Soviet government relies, and in what measure the socialist character of its policy is guaranteed. At the 11th Party Congress in March 1922, Lenin, in practically bidding farewell to the party, addressed these words to the commanding group: History knows transformations of all sorts. To rely upon conviction, devotion and other excellent spiritual qualities – that is not to be taken seriously in politics." Being determines consciousness. During the last fifteen years, the government has changed its social composition even more deeply than its ideas. Since of all the strata of Soviet society, the bureaucracy has best solved its own social problem and is fully content with the existing situation, it has ceased to offer any subjective guarantee whatever of the socialist direction of its policy. It continues to preserve state property only to the extent that it fears the proletariat. This saving fear is nourished and supported by the illegal party of Bolshevik-Leninists, which is the most conscious expression of the socialist tendencies opposing that bourgeois reaction with which the Thermidorian bureaucracy is completely saturated. 

As a conscious political force, the bureaucracy has betrayed the revolution. But a victorious revolution is fortunately not only a program and a banner, not only political institutions but also a system of social relations. To betray it is not enough. You have to overthrow it. The October revolution has been betrayed by the ruling stratum, but not yet overthrown. It has a great power of resistance, coinciding with the established property relations, with the living force of the proletariat, the consciousness of its best elements, the impasse of world capitalism, and the inevitability of world revolution.[1]

While he debunks several myths and outright lies surrounding Vladimir Lenin, he opposes one of Lenin's most important contribution to the success of the revolution that is the development of a revolutionary party. Like many radicals, Faulkner is hostile to the conception of such a party.

It was one of the reasons he broke with the SWP in 2010. He describes the revolutionary party as "small organisation run by a self-appointed 'vanguard' that seeks to insert itself into a mass movement in order to grow parasitically like a tic".[2]

He then talks about when he left the SWP, since 2010, I have formed many new and rewarding political friendships, and these have contributed, I believe, to a richer, more nuanced understanding of the Russian Revolution. Not least, the degeneration of the British Left over the last two or three decades- which is a generic process, not something restricted to the SWP-has given me a clearer understanding that the masses build revolutionary parties themselves in a struggle; that is, they do not arise from voluntarism, from acts of will by self-appointed revolutionary 'vanguards'; they do not arise from what has sometimes has been called 'the primitive accumulation of cadre. Revolutionaries should organise, but they should never proclaim themselves to be the party".[3] I might add that the SWP only pays lip service to the concept of the revolutionary party and exhibits similar economism that Lenin fought against.[4]

As mentioned earlier, there is no original research in Faulkner's book. It does not offer any new significant interpretation of the revolution as it developed. Relying on Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution is not enough for an established historian. Given the size of the subject, it is extraordinary that the bibliography is only two and one-half pages, and most of that consists of books by and about Lenin and Trotsky. No letters, newspapers or interviews or personal accounts are cited. For a people's history, it is light on people.

Perhaps the most damning indictment of the book is that it contains no analysis of the rise of the Post-Soviet School of Historical Falsification. Contained within this school is a sub-genre which seeks to bury the great Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky under a new set of lies and calumny.

The representatives of the Post-Soviet School of Historical Falsification—from the Stalinist military historian Dmitry Volkogonov to the British historians Ian Thatcher, Geoffrey Swain and Robert Service have through their books sought to lie, distort and produce the same Stalinist lies from previous anti-Marxist historiography. The purpose of these attacks are to deny the younger generation access to the views, analyses and perspectives of Leon Trotsky.

One of the leading proponents of the Post-Soviet School of Historical Falsification is Robert Service. Service in 2009 said, “There is life in the old boy Trotsky yet—but if the ice pick did not quite do its job-killing him off, I hope I have managed it.”  Robert Service London, October 2009.

Service has not accomplished his job, which is no thanks to Faulkner. Outside of the Marxists of the World Socialist Website, not a single political tendency calling itself Trotskyist has presented a consistent body of work that attacks Service and his friends in the Post Soviet School of Falsification. Given the crude political level of this “school”, it is not a difficult thing to do as the Marxist writer David North said of Service’s biogeography of Trotsky it “is a crude and offensive book, produced without respect for the most minimal standards of scholarship. Service’s “research,” if one wishes to call it that, has been conducted in bad faith. His Trotsky is not history, but, rather, an exercise in character assassination. Service is not content to distort and falsify Trotsky’s political deeds and ideas. Frequently descending to the level of a grocery store tabloid, Service attempts to splatter filth on Trotsky’s personal life. Among his favourite devices is to refer to “rumours” about Trotsky’s intimate relations, without even bothering to identify the rumour’s source, let alone substantiate its credibility.[5]

To conclude, as I said before, Faulkner's book is a basic history of the Russian revolution and contains nothing in it that would merit a recommendation. It is hoped that Faulkner’s next book on the Russian revolution is a better one that takes on the Post Soviet School of Falsification. I will not hold my breath.










[1] The Revolution Betrayed-Chapter 9-Social Relations-in the Soviet Union-https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/revbet/ch09.htm#ch09-1
[2] http://socialistreview.org.uk/425/peoples-history-russian-revolution
[3] A Peoples History of the Russian Revolution. Neil Faulkner. Pluto 2017
[4] See-What Is To Be Done?Burning Questions of Our Movement-https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/iv.htm
[5] In The Service of Historical Falsification: A Review of Robert Service's Trotsky
By David North-11 November 2009- https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2009/11/serv-n11.html

Saturday, 9 May 2020

A review of Raquel Varela, A People's History of the Portuguese Revolution (Pluto Press, 2019), £19.99

 On April 25 1974, a coup by lower-ranked army officers overthrew Portugal's fascist Estado Novo government. The coup opened the way for a massive mobilisation of the working class the likes of which had not been seen in Portugal before.Raquel Cardeira Varela's book examines what would later be called the Carnation Revolution. One of the most important revolutions since the Second World War and one which caught the international bourgeoisie completely by surprise.

It would take nearly two years to defeat the revolution. With relatively little violence or bloodshed, the Portuguese bourgeoisie was able to take back power art the expense of a few limited reforms. The popular front government established by the revolution which contained a significant Communist Party presence under the leadership of  Álvaro Cunhal handed over power without a murmur from the numerous Pseudo lefts groups.

The coup was started by young military captains in the national armed forces. Varela goes out of her way to emphasise that these were only captains as if this made them unconscious socialists.

Rank and file soldiers did indeed come over to the revolution as experienced by Bob Light who saw at first-hand soldiers' giving the clenched fist salute and waving red carnations' (p.48). Slogans such as " the soldiers are sons of the workers", "down with capitalist exploitation" were also heard on the streets.[1] But despite these sections of the rank and file soldiers won to the revolution the army would still be controlled by the Portuguese bourgeoisie.

Varela’s position regarding this revolution is essentially Pabloite. Pabloism was a tendency that came out of the post-war period, as this document explains "The complexities of the postwar period found expression in the form of a revisionist tendency within the Trotskyist movement that adapted to the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois organisations. The revisionists came to see the Stalinist and Social-Democratic tendencies, as well as petty-bourgeois nationalist and radical movements, not as political obstacles to the independent mobilisation of the working class, but, rather, as alternative instruments for realising socialism. It was not, therefore, a matter of opposing to these organisations the independent perspective of the Fourth International, but rather of transforming the Fourth International into a pressure group on the existing leadership of the working class and national movements. The revisionists endowed the Stalinists and bourgeois nationalists with a historically progressive role, rejecting Trotsky's insistence on their counter-revolutionary character. This revision of the perspective upon which the founding of the Fourth International had been based was advanced initially by two leading figures in the post-war Trotskyist movement in Europe, Michel Pablo and Ernest Mandel."[2]

As Varela describes in the book, The Portuguese Revolution became a pole of attraction for Pabloite and Pseudo Left organisations throughout Europe. Ten thousand foreign pseudo lefts and Stalinists visited Portugal during and after the revolution.

The Carnation Revolution was the latest of a line of revolutionary movements that were betrayed by Stalinism and Pabloism. Beginning in May 1968 in Paris,  the 1969 'hot autumn' in Italy, strike waves in Germany and Britain in the early 1970s and the struggle in Greece against military rule in 1973-4. International Socialist leader Tony Cliff argued that 'Portugal, the weakest link in the capitalist chain in Europe can become the launching pad for the socialist revolution in the whole of the continent' (p.220). 

Cliff's remarks were pure bravado as his International Socialist movement made sure this did not happen. Instead of being 'the launching pad of the socialist revolution', the defeat of the Portuguese revolution paved the way for various neoliberalism regimes. Varela’s book is a political amnesty for the betrayals of the Stalinist's and radical groups such as the IS. Varela also a member of the IS is reticent, to say the least about pointing out important lessons from the defeat.

Revolution’s Origin

Although the revolution's origin was in Africa the 1974 revolution was ultimately shaped by Portugal's belated historical development.  As Paul Mitchell describes in his 2004 essay "By 1973, there were some 42,000 companies in Portugal—one-third of them employing fewer than ten workers—but about 150 companies dominated the entire economy. Most were related to foreign capital but headed by a few very wealthy Portuguese families (Espirito Santo, de Melo, de Brito, Champalimaud). The de Melos' monopoly company Companhia União Fabril (CUF), for example, owned large parts of Guinea-Bissau and produced 10 per cent of the gross national product.   Despite this industrialisation, a third of the population still worked as agricultural labourers, many in large estates or latifundia. An estimated 150,000 people were living in shantytowns concentrated around the capital, Lisbon. Food shortages and economic hardship—wages were the lowest in Europe at US$10 a week in the 1960s—led to the mass emigration of nearly 1 million people to other European countries, Brazil and the colonies.   The 1960s also saw the emergence of liberation movements in the Portuguese African colonies of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. Fighting three guerrilla movements for more than a decade drained the Portuguese economy and labour force. Nearly half the budget was spent on maintaining more than 150,000 troops in Africa.

He continues “Compulsory military service lasting for four years, combined with poor military pay and conditions, laid the basis for grievances and the development of oppositional movements amongst the troops. These conscripts became the basis for the emergence of an underground movement known as the "Movement of the Captains." The continuing economic drain caused by the military campaigns in Africa was exacerbated by the world economic crisis that developed in the late 1960s.[3]

In the 1970s, the Portuguese ruling elite confronted a massive strike wave at home and uprisings in the colonies. Nearly one half of the national budget was spent keeping 150,000 troops abroad fighting the national liberation movements in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau. Compulsory military service combined with low pay to intensify grievances in the army and stimulated an oppositional movement amongst the troops known as the "Movement of the Captains," which later developed into the Armed Forces Movement (MFA).

The Armed Forces Movement (MFA) or "movement of the Captains" so glorified by Varela became an important bulwark against revolution once it was in power alongside the PCP. To stop the revolutionary mobilisation of the working class, the MFA invited the Communist Party (PCP) into government.
The Communist Party was invited to take part in the First Provisional Government in May 1974 and took part in all the six provisional governments. These governments were popular fronts containing trade unions, the Socialist Party, the Church, and the upper hierarchy of the armed forces.

The Socialist Party and the Church initially did not want the Communists in the government, but sections of the military knew the PCP would be useful in controlling rank and file soldiers and the working class.  As Varela, herself points out “'The Portuguese Communist Party was prepared to abandon its radical army supporters (and a great many others) in exchange for a continued stake in government. The military left had become a burden on the Communist Party because its performance undermined the balance of power with the Nine and peaceful coexistence agreements between the USA, Western Europe and the USSR. Some 200 soldiers and officers, plus a handful of building workers, were arrested' (p.246).

Cunhal and the Early Days of the PCP

Varela has political amnesia regarding the early history of the PCP and its leader Alvaro Cunhal. Economic instability and an insurgent working class had produced a right-wing coup in 1926, and by 1933, influenced by Mussolini's fascism in Italy, the formal declaration of an authoritarian "New State" by Prime Minister Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. The fascist National Union (UN) party was made the only legal party, and independent trade unions and strikes were outlawed. Salazar established strict censorship and created a vicious secret police force.

The PCP was outlawed and its leadership imprisoned or driven into exile. The party had been purged in 1929, following the Sixth Congress of the Comintern, and Bento Gonçalves, who had only joined the organisation the previous year, installed as General Secretary.

Cunhal joined the PCP in 1931 whilst studying law at university and left for the Soviet Union to attend a congress of Communist youth in September 1935. It was at this time that the Stalinist bureaucracy began to advance its policy of building "popular fronts" with "democratic" bourgeois governments and liberal-reformist elements worldwide supposedly to combat fascism and defend the USSR. Cunhal, who came to epitomise the policy of popular frontism in Portugal, became the leader of the youth organisation and joined the Central Committee of the PCP in 1936 at the age of 22.

MFA

One of the most important questions of the revolution concerned the political nature of the MFA and its "armed intervention" unit, the Continental Operations Command (COPCON—Comando Operacional do Continente)

COPCON  was composed of 5,000 elite troops. Its leader was Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho. In order to cover over its real intentions, the MFA said it was in favour of an "alliance of the MFA and the people."
The PSP, PCP and Pseudo left groups never challenged this blatant lie. Instead, the PCP declared the MFA was a "guarantor of democracy" and developed close relations with Carvalho, General Vasco Goncalves and other members of the Junta.

SWP and the Popular Front

The fact that the various popular front governments could operate with impunity is down to the role played by Psuedo Lefts like the IS. Readers need to know the history of the IS as Mitchell points out “International Socialist (IS) organisation (today's Socialist Workers Party in Britain) was represented by the Revolutionary Party of the Proletariat (PRP—Partido Revolucionário do Proletariado). The founders of the International Socialists had broken from the Fourth International in the 1940s, claiming that the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union and its satellites was a new class in a new social system (state capitalism). This not only granted the Stalinist bureaucracy a certain legitimacy, not due to its parasitic character, but expressed a prostration before the post-war stabilisation of imperialism. The IS' radical phraseology, its glorification of trade union syndicalism combined with a semi-anarchist stance, served only to conceal its refusal to challenge the political domination of the working class by the social democratic and Stalinist bureaucracies.[4]

The promotion of the popular front by the IS had nothing in common with orthodox Marxism. The following is its analysis of the popular front  “Poder Popular (popular power), underpinned by the Aliança Povo-MFA (an alliance of the people and the MFA), emerged as the ideology for the MFA. It set out to unite the military with workers, land workers, tenants and slum-dwellers. The military made use of their prestige acquired through carrying out the coup against the regime. Popular power was perceived as the living alternative to the bourgeois focus on parliamentary democracy. This is not to say that army and workers were always united, but the impact of the people's movement on the armed forces, and vice versa, came to be an integral part of the Portuguese story. But the slogan "Unity of the people and the MFA" was double-edged: not only did the people influence the army, but also the revolutionary movement's reliance upon the radicals in the army was to be part of its undoing. [5].

The reader should compare the statement above with the way Leon Trotsky described and evaluated the Popular Front:: "The question of questions at the moment is the Popular Front. The left centrists seek to present this question as a tactical or even as a technical manoeuvre, so as to be able to peddle their wares in the shadow of the Popular Front. In reality, the Popular Front is the main question of proletarian class strategy for this epoch. It also offers the best criterion for the difference between Bolshevism and Menshevism. For it is often forgotten that the greatest historical example of the Popular Front is the February 1917 revolution. From February to October the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries, who represent a very good parallel to the ‘Communists' [i.e., Stalinists] and the Social Democrats, were in the closest alliance and were in a permanent coalition with the bourgeois party of the Cadets, together with whom they formed a series of coalition governments. Under the sign of this Popular Front stood the whole mass of the people, including the workers', peasants' and soldiers' councils. To be sure, the Bolsheviks participated in the councils. But they did not make the slightest concession to the Popular Front. They demanded to break this Popular Front, to destroy the alliance with the Cadets, and to create a genuine workers' and peasants' government."

To conclude, the fact that after 45 years of the revolution, its “memory” is still in dispute is down to the treacherous role by the various Pabloite and Pseudo Left groups. Varela’s book continues the collective amnesia regarding the role of these groups. This book airbrushes them from the historical record.

Varela’s final analysis of the defeat of the Portuguese is as lame as her pollical amnesia over the radical groups apparently at her book launch Varela  was heard to say that the Portuguese ruling class was forced to give up its rings risk losing its fingers.

That the Portuguese bourgeoisie was able to keep its still vast collection of rings and fingers was down to the betrayal by the PCP and its radical hangers-on who tied the working class to the bourgeois parties, the state machine and the MFA.

It is only fitting to leave the last word to the one organisation that fought for the success of the Portuguese Revolution which in the words of Paul Mitchell “would have been a mighty blow to international capital and inspired the movements developing throughout the world in the 1970s. Only the International Committee of the Fourth International and its Portuguese supporters, the League for the Construction of the Revolutionary Party (LCRP), called for the PCP and PSP to break from the bourgeois parties, the state machine and MFA. It demanded the dissolution of the army and the creation of workers', peasants' and soldiers' soviets in opposition to the MFA and its proposals for a Constituent Assembly.”




[1] https://isj.org.uk/so-much-freedom/
[2] The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party—Part 6- https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2008/10/hist-o04.html
[3] Thirty years since the Portuguese Revolution Part 1
By Paul Mitchell 15 July 2004- wsws.org 
[4] Thirty years since the Portuguese Revolution—Part 3
  Paul Mitchell-17 July 2004
[5] https://isj.org.uk/so-much-freedom/