Portugal: The "Socialists" Got a Majority but the Capitalists Won the Elections!

Portugal held elections on January 30th. The result was a surprise, despite the rivalry between Antonio Costa (Socialist Party) and Rui Rio (Social Democratic Party) presented by the media, the Socialist Party won with an absolute majority, getting 120 parliamentary seats.

In addition, the left lost several seats, with the Bloco de Esquerda (Left Bloc) reduced to 5 and the Portuguese Communist Party reduced to 6. There was also an increase in the far right Chega (Enough) party vote, giving them 12 deputies, whilst the Liberal Initiative, got 8.

What is socialism?

Since “socialists” will be in power indisputably for 5 years, it is important to ask what socialism is.

Is it an ideology? Or maybe a gourmet dish?

Socialism is the emancipation movement of workers and, for that, the abolition of the state, classes and money is necessary.

Is this possible?

Capitalism creates the necessary conditions for the existence of a society where everyone's needs can be met and creates the class that has the potential to carry out this historic task: the proletariat, whose interests are opposed to those of the bourgeoisie and which has nothing to lose, only their chains.

To consider Portugal to be socialist just because “socialists” are in power, instead of analysing the conditions existing in Portugal, demonstrates a lack of critical thinking. Portuguese society, like the world around it, is characterised by the existence of a class that controls the means of production, which are used to produce profit, and another class that has no property other than its own labour power – the working class.

None of this represents socialism or proletarian power, so why would we consider Portugal socialist?

These elections were considered a political earthquake, and one of the reasons for considering them as such is the existence of 12 deputies from the extreme right (Chega) in parliament.

Is Chega a threat to democracy? And what kind of democracy are we talking about?

First of all, the fact that Chega is the third political force is not as important as people think. The PS won with an absolute majority, the opposition in general will not be able to do anything but make noises, so Chega in particular has no political power.

Furthermore, democracy itself is an empty concept. Democracy, but for whom?

Can we consider the ancient Greek city of Athens as a democratic city? It is true that democracy existed, but not everyone enjoyed it, with only a minority with political rights.

Can we consider the current bourgeois democracy as democratic? Although we can choose who represents us, the truth is that we have no decision-making power in political matters. Not only do the representatives elected by us have complete autonomy for 4 years, but our electoral decision is limited to a restricted group of parties, with no space for the proposals and decisions of the population. This democracy is only democratic for the different factions of the bourgeoisie that finance political parties, while the rest of the population is limited to choosing preconceived parties. After the elections, all power remains in the hands of the bourgeoisie, regardless of which faction won (left or right). The State is always a repressive apparatus of the ruling class, and therefore, the bourgeois state, whether democratic or authoritarian, will always represent the interests of the bourgeoisie. Bourgeois democracy is nothing more and nothing less than a dictatorship of capital. No wonder that after all the electoral enthusiasm following the 25 April 1974 “Carnation Revolution”, abstention rose from 8.5% in 1975 to 48.6% in 2022.


However, it could be argued that we can use elections as a way to elect the “lesser evil” faction of the bourgeoisie, since it does not seem that a revolution to overthrow the capitalist system is going to happen in the near future. So, wouldn't it be better to exercise our right to vote and vote against Chega so that the ghost of fascism doesn't come back to haunt the beautiful Portuguese democratic republic?

Fascism and Chega

Voting is not the way to stop fascism. Fascism is not something supernatural that comes from the depths of hell to haunt us. It is not an ideology created by bad men that comes to disturb the social peace lived in liberal democracies.

Fascism is an exacerbation to the maximum of the racism, nationalism, xenophobia and sexism present in capitalism. It is the most repressive ideology in existence and is the vehicle of the counter-revolution, of the most efficient bourgeois reaction, through its violent measures and interclass policies, such as vertical unions.

When everything fails and the appearance of popular sovereignty is not enough to control the workers, the bourgeoisie is forced to use its most powerful resource. It is no coincidence that the period of emergence of fascist states in the 1930s followed the most revolutionary period (revolutionary wave of the 1920s) ever experienced under capitalism in which, all over the world, workers revolted against the existing order. Considering the case of Portugal, we can see that the 1926 coup d'état that started the dictatorship in Portugal took place after a period of great political and social upheaval.

The First Republic, especially after the Great War, was marked by economic crisis – the huge public debt inherited from the Monarchy, inflation, currency devaluation, military expenses with the war – and by political instability – 45 governments between 1910 and 1926.

Unemployment and inflation made life difficult for workers, who increasingly organised themselves into confederations of unions such as the CGT and held strikes and demonstrations.

Despite the great social unrest, which ranged from demonstrations to terrorist attacks, and the holding of several strikes, the workers' struggle was very disorganised. It was not aimed at the conquest of political power but only an economic struggle through strikes that would eventually bring about the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.

In addition, there was a lack of a political party rooted in the working class with the ability to guide it.

The anarcho-syndicalist current, which guided the CGT, belonged to a young and inexperienced proletariat in the class struggle. This current believed in the overthrow of the bourgeoisie through the general strike and disorganised terrorist actions, and therefore placed its hope in the trade union and strike movement. (…) Despite the vitality of the CGT, which came to group more than 100,000 workers around 1922, the movement was weakened by the lack of a clear political platform, union leaders gave in to demagoguery and put the economic interests of each professional sector at the forefront of the general interests of the class; energies were wasted without a precise battle plan and the workers were getting tired.

Francisco Martins Rodrigues, marxists.org

The political instability of this period demonstrates the disorganisation of the bourgeoisie and its lack of solutions to resolve the economic and social crisis, which the war only exacerbated.

This weakened political power led many in the field of the bourgeoisie to think like this British ambassador:

In early 1925, the British ambassador in Lisbon wrote to London saying that the Portuguese parliamentary system was already dead and that such a system was “perfectly unsuitable, in many respects, for the Latin nations”.


The Republic was not satisfying the interests of the bourgeoisie, who were unhappy with political instability, growing social unrest and the economic crisis. The solution found was a coup that established a military dictatorship (Coup of May 28, 1926) that later evolved into a fascist dictatorship – the Estado Novo.

It is obvious that we must fight the atrocities of fascism, but only by fighting capitalism as a whole. Fascism is a product of capitalism and is used by the bourgeoisie when necessary. As we have seen in this historical example of the rise of fascism in Portugal, the bourgeoisie had to drop its democratic mask and show how disgusting it can be to stay in power.

Anti-fascism is not enough to fight fascism. Anti-fascism, through popular fronts, unites workers with their exploiters, replacing the class struggle with an ideological struggle between fascism and democracy, when in reality fascism comes from this very struggle between classes.

The “antifa” movement subjugates the workers to the bourgeois in the name of the “greater evil”.

We have to oppose capitalism, regardless of which face it reveals, democratic or authoritarian. In a world where the pandemic has increased food insecurity while billionaires have become 54% richer, where war destroys entire countries like Yemen where 20.7 million people – 71 percent of the population – need humanitarian aid, in this world where human rights only exist on paper because what determines all decisions are the interests of capital, the antagonism is not between Fascism or Democracy, but Socialism or Barbarism!

It is not therefore in petitioning for protection from the state, or forming blocs with political movements operating within the orbit of democracy and mobilising in "defence of the republic", that the working class will be able to defend itself against the shameless and unhindered exercise of the violence of the ruling class, but only through the class struggle, that is to say through strengthening the revolutionary party and by restoring class wide organisations, both of which have been absent until now.


But then, how to act in relation to Chega?

Chega plays a key role in the current political situation. Indirectly, it causes people to vote to “defend democracy” against the threat of Chega. Directly, it contributes to the increase of racism and xenophobia, through its nationalist populism that blames the crisis and the lack of employment on immigrants and ethnic minorities such as the Roma. It is to be expected, unfortunately, that this nationalist vision will increase among workers as long as there is no response from a working class that understands that the evils of capitalist society come from the incessant pursuit of profit and not from the existence of immigrants, in fact the working class itself is an immigrant class.

As Chega gains more supporters, there are those who think it should be made illegal. However, the outlawing of Chega based on its extremist character would set a precedent for repressing any and all movements that could be seen as extremist. Any demonstration or action by workers could be seen as “extremist” and therefore prohibited.

Therefore, the only way to fight Chega is to fight capitalism as a whole.

The Defeat of the Left

Undoubtedly, the capitalist Left suffered a major defeat. The Left Bloc lost 14 deputies and the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) went from 12 to 6.

The left was defeated; however, this does not affect real communists or the class struggle in any way.

The split between the real revolutionaries and the reformist left (social democracy) took place at the outbreak of the First World War, when most of the parties that made up the Second International supported their respective states in the imperialist war (with the exception of the Bolsheviks and a few other parties) and when, later, the communists finally left the Social Democratic parties and created their own organisations (arguably too late).

The parliamentary left, the left of capital, differs only from the right in terms of the way it organizes capitalism. In the end, when faced with a threat from workers, the entire political spectrum unites in defense of the status quo. Ideological differences never overlap with class differences. Since parliament is only the center of discussion for the various bourgeois factions, any organization that gets involved and wants representation in parliament will become part of the system.

The best example of this is the example of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). By participating in parliament, it increasingly forgot about the revolutionary struggle, to the point where some of its members felt that a revolution was no longer necessary, and that socialism could be achieved through reforms (e.g. Bernstein). For these members, it was enough to fight for the interests of workers in parliament, completely forgetting the Marxist notion, learned from the experience of the Paris Commune, that

The working class cannot simply seize the ready-made state machinery and make it work for its own purposes.

Marx, The Civil War in France

Ownership of the SPD grew, and a huge bureaucracy began to develop around its membership, with several officials paid 15 times the salary of an average worker. Therefore, it is understandable how the SPD supported the interests of German capital, with its parliamentary members unanimously approving the war credits. By becoming part of the system, they began to support that which they claimed to criticise, because the continuity of the SPD depended on the continuity of the capitalist mode of production.

And this is how the biggest “socialist” party in the world and the biggest party in the German Empire became essential in the defeat of the German Revolution, when, during the Revolution, it hired Freikorps (proto-fascist paramilitary force) to suppress workers’ uprisings and kill the revolutionaries – Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht.

This example clearly shows the repressive character of the parliamentary left. Despite all the time wasted talking about change, it only helps to steer any attempt at change in a reformist direction.

Again, communists must be against capitalism, whichever face it shows us – the right face or the left face. The defeat of the Bloc and the PCP, of the parliamentary left, in no way affects the workers' struggle for a better society.

Is the Socialist Party the Problem?

The Economy

In response to the economic crisis in Portugal, many argue that this is a result of the PS's "socialist" measures. That is not the case.

The aim of production in capitalist society is the production of profit. Thus, crises result from insufficient profitability.

The growth of capitalism implied greater mechanisation and productivity, since competition between capitalists implies that they want to increase their productivity in order to be able to produce more than their competitor. However, with this tendency to invest more capital in machines there is a tendency for the rate of profit to fall, because less capital is invested in wage labour, the only part of the investment that produces profit, since the latter originates from unpaid labour.

The entire capitalist system is in crisis due to the fall in the rate of profit visible since the 1970s after the biggest period of accumulation in the history of capitalism, resulting from the massive destruction of the Second World War.

To mitigate the effects of the crisis, government spending increased and world debt soared. Currently, global debt is 256 percent of GDP. Public debt in Portugal is around 130 percent of the national GDP.

The use of government funds to try to stimulate the economy also contributed to the increase in inflation. Portugal not only remains among the EU countries with the lowest minimum wage, but the expected increase in wages is also not keeping up with the inflation rate, representing a decline in real wages (purchasing power).

Furthermore, the jobs that are currently being created continue the trend of precariousness of the working class. In Portugal, “ Until the middle of this year (2021), eight out of ten new workers hired are precarious. ” (rr.sapo.pt)

What future awaits young people today? If they manage to get a job it will most likely be a precarious job. After 12 years of studying (even more if they go to college) the only thing that awaits them is to work for a boss until they die and waste their lives producing profit for someone who doesn't care about them. This sounds bad, but it will be even worse since it will probably be a job that they will hate. That is, if they don't die sooner in a war or because of environmental changes. But I'm getting ahead of myself, for now let's talk about the crisis.

In times of crisis, and as a way of counteracting the fall in the profit ratio, some measures taken by capitalists are to lower wages and move production to places with lower wages, as seen with the relocation of factories. to places like China in the 1980s.

With the victory of the PS, everything will remain the same because the economic situation will not change in the coming years, this would only be possible with a war that devalues ​​capital to the point that it is possible to restart the cycle of accumulation. Even if another party had been elected, it would not have made a difference, they would not have been able to solve the problems associated with the crisis such as debt, inflation, low wages and unemployment.

For example: In the Great Depression, US President Franklin Roosevelt took a series of measures to deal with the effects of the depression and recover the American economy – the New Deal. The array of measures adopted by the Roosevelt administration, such as bank subsidies, industrial price controls, among others, despite having helped to counter the downward trend that began in the late 1920s, was not enough. As soon as the government cut its stimulus, investment and production fell again and unemployment soared. It was not until the war began and the preparation of resources for it that fiscal stimulus “finally produced something like full employment” Paul Mattick, Business as Usual


As you can see, when government spending dropped by '37, unemployment skyrocketed and only started to fall again, reaching levels close to zero, with the war and the preparation for it. It was the preparation for war and the war itself that ended the Depression. How is it possible that between 70 and 100 million human beings must die to resume the accumulation of the system?

Undoubtedly, it is possible to encourage a stagnant economy through deficit financing, that is, through credit. But it is not possible to maintain the rate of profit on capital in this way, and thus perpetuate the conditions of prosperity. So, it was only a matter of time before the capital production crisis mechanism reasserted itself. Obviously, the mere availability of credit to expand production is not a solution to the crisis, but a transitory and improvised policy that only generates temporary “positive” effects. If it is not accompanied by a true expansion of capital, based on higher profits, it must self-collapse. The “Keynesian remedy” only led to a new crisis situation with rising unemployment and inflation – both equally harmful to the capitalist system.

Paul Mattick Sr., criticadesapiedada.com.br

This is just one of several historical examples of attempts to deal with the crisis that did not work. After the “Golden Age” of capitalism ended in the 1970s many governments tried to recover past growth rates. From the Republican Reagan, who tried to reduce inflation and government spending and left the White House with a 186% increase in the national deficit, to the other side of the political spectrum where the policies of French President François Mitterand, a “socialist”, resulted in the flight of French capital abroad, the increase in unemployment and the need to devalue the franc 3 times.

Left and right are in opposition, not just with each other, but with reality.

The crisis cannot be resolved with policies, only mitigated. The mixed economy (government regulation) has been the option of governments to deal with the crisis.

The current economic crisis will prevail until there is a large-scale devaluation of capital (in a war) or until the working class destroys the capitalist system.


The economic crisis is worrying, but the environmental crisis is a very important issue whose urgency cannot be underestimated. I won't go into detail as there are several articles on the leftcom.org on this topic. In short, capitalism is irreconcilable with the environment and the well-being not only of humans but of all nature. Capitalism's constant need for unlimited growth clashes with the limited character of Nature.

The drastic decrease in emissions, necessary this decade for the temperature increase to be limited to 1.5 degrees, does not appear to be happening.

Although in the countries of Europe and the United States it seems that a certain decrease is taking place, the greenhouse gases emitted in the countries where there is most of the production completely compensate the decrease in the other countries.

The only way to solve the environmental emergency is a revolution that radically changes the way of production. Capitalism is not sustainable.

Again, the victory of the PS, or any other party for that matter, will not be enough to solve the climate crisis: it is a global problem and only the abolition of capitalism worldwide will be able to solve it. National measures will not work.

Foreign policy

Regarding foreign policy, it would be a big mistake not to mention the topic that doesn't leave television and the minds of many people. The media in Portugal talk about the war and the invasion of Ukraine incessantly. War is indeed atrocious, but it is not possible to stop it by appealing to pacifism alone. The current war in Ukraine is the result of an imperialist conflict that has been exacerbated by the current economic crisis. The Russian invasion is a reaction to the advance that has been made by NATO in the countries of Eastern Europe, Russia's neighbours. Putin, as a representative of the Russian capitalist class, tries to defend the imperialist interests of his nation, not only guaranteeing resources such as iron and coal, but also some room for manoeuvre that the Ukrainian territory guarantees him. The war has also pushed countries like China and India closer to Russia, while NATO and the EU are now closer to the US in fighting a common enemy. Imperialist camps are beginning to form, which only increases the arms race that was already underway.

The Portuguese government, as a lackey of NATO and Brussels, gravely condemns Russian atrocities on Ukrainian soil and forgets that it supported American atrocities on Iraqi soil. The war in Ukraine is getting a lot of coverage because the aggressor in this case is a rival to NATO, while other wars around the world such as Somalia, Yemen or Syria are rarely mentioned.

The only solution is to make war on war. Workers all over the world must revolt against their governments and bosses and refuse to kill their fellow workers. We must not choose sides in imperialist wars.

No war but the class war!


What is to be Done?

In all elections communists must support abstention. Voting blank would mean saying that we support the parliamentary system but not any of its parties. Not voting means that we believe that only a workers' revolution can make a difference. Communists do not expect to be elected nor do they want to seize power on behalf of the workers. Workers have to conquer state power and manage it through their own assemblies, establishing a dictatorship of the proletariat, the transition period between capitalism and communism.

In 1871 this was achieved in the Paris Commune, but it was violently destroyed by French forces with Prussian support. In 1917 workers' democracy was put into practice once again but this time in an entire country. However, the Russian revolution became isolated and slowly degenerated into state capitalism in which the Bolshevik bureaucracy became the capitalist class. However, both these historical moments showed us how workers democratically organised themselves and took control of production and political power. Soviet democracy is based on soviets (workers' assemblies) where there is a delegate for a certain number of workers. This delegate acts as a spokesperson and has to get the message across to the workers that they represent correctly. Any failure to do so results in the mandate being immediately revoked. Furthermore, in the Soviet model all decisions are made from the bottom up. Workers elect local soviets, which elect district soviets, and so on. The basis of the entire Soviet system rests on the workers. This is radically different from bourgeois democracy, where we vote for a representative or a party and for 4 years we have no political voice. We are passive citizens in this democracy, while in Soviet democracy it is up to each worker to give his opinion.

The bourgeoisie controls the means of production and political power throughout the world. That's why every decision that is taken considers whether it will bring profit to the bourgeoisie or not. We do not live in a democracy, but in a dictatorship of capital.

Although capitalism only brings destruction and suffering, this does not mean that we are doomed to live like this forever. It is in the hands of the working class to save the human species by extinguishing capitalism.

The communist party, or an organisation of revolutionaries, will necessarily have to guide the workers at the height of a revolution. Since some workers realise the need to end capitalism before others it makes sense that they start to organise and create connections with the working class so that in the event of a spontaneous movement they are prepared and have an influence on the workers.

The overarching demand today has to be for a revolutionary social alternative to capitalism. This is the essential condition for starting to build that new society where, free from the laws of capital, it will be possible to produce for social need and to redistribute socially produced wealth to meet society and individual needs. All the rest belongs to the smoky galaxy of powerless idealisms, politically damaging for those who propose them, demoralising for the workers who take them up, and fatal for the resumption of the class struggle.


If you agree with the message conveyed in this article, contact the Internationalist Communist Tendency and help build a future international communist party.

Sancho Panza


Image: flickr.com





Marks, Harry J. “The Sources of Reformism in the Social Democratic Party of Germany, 1890-1914.” The Journal of Modern History, vol. 11, no. 3, University of Chicago Press, 1939, pp. 334–56, jstor.org.



Business as Usual – Paul Mattick Jr.





Saturday, June 11, 2022