Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 21:21:25 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Portugal/Left Bloc formed/Fernando Batista
From: (Jim Monaghan)
Article: 55557
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

“Beginning Again”

By Fernando Batista, International Viewpoint, 20 February 1999

Three of Portugal's radical socialist groups are creating a “Left Block” which will stand candidates in the European and national elections later this year.

Under the slogan “Beginning Again” the Bloco de Esquerda (Left Bloc) proclaims that it is time “to remake the left, and begin again. To combat the negative effects of globalisation, with its trail of misery and injustice. To struggle for a Europe able to build a future based on the best elements of its history. A Europe which values all its identities, be they national, class, immigrant or pluri-cultural.”

Portugal, is “a country developing at different speeds… Twenty-five years after the fall of the Salazar dictatorship, modern Portugal is just as conservative as before. This cannot continue! We need to break the vicious circle of polarisation of political life between the Socialist Party and the [conservative] Social Democratic Party. there is a discourse of alternance and change, but nothing ever does change.”

The project has been approved by the PSR (Portuguese section of the Fourth InternationaI), the UDP (of Maoist origin) and Politica XXI (a grouping of militants of different origins around a nucleus of former members of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP).

The founders of the Left Bloc regret that the (larger) PCP “is still unable to understand the complexity of Portuguese society today. This prevents the Party from presenting itself as a party which wants to break with the current society.”

The three organisations confirmed their conviction that “we must bring into politics all those who are excluded or marginalised. It is high time for all those who identify with the essence of what we are saying to come together in a new project which will be capable of carrying forward strong and credible proposals for democracy and socialism.”

This is not a marginal event. The organisations involved have a real implantation in the social tissue of Portuguese life. PSR leader Manuel Graca is General Secretary of the Shoemakers' Trade Union, and the PSR and UDP are active across the leather-working and shoemaking unions

The UDP has one Member of Parliament, and all three groups are represented in municipal assemblies (Lisbon, Almada, Amarante).

For the PSR “Such a project is a long-standing idea. Many independent militants have long been convinced of the need for an electorally viable alternative. People have wanted the intervention of organised militants to be directed towards concretising a politically and culturally force representative of an alternative current in the Portuguese left. But what is new is the decision to assume the responsibility and the risk of doing so. It is time now to do it.”

The Left Bloc initiative has already attracted considerable interest. Among the “independents” who have signed up are the historian Fernando Rosus, composer Jose Mario Branco, and the writer and active feminist Melice Ribeiro Santos.

Despite the encouraging number of individual members, militants of the three founding groups are still the base of the Left Bloc. Only Politica XXI intends to dissolve itself into the new organisation. The PSR and UDP believe they can contribute more to the struggle for socialism by maintaining their own structures as well as fully participating in the Left Bloc.

This exciting move was approved by the congresses of the three organisations in January. The next step is registering the Left Bloc as a legal political party. That means collecting five thousand signatures, each officially notarised. The time-consuming and expensive challenge will be good practice for the European elections in June, and parliamentary election in October.