Translation of the Interview of Alvaro Cunhal to the "Quaderni Communisti" in 1995

Alvaro Cunhal’s interview to the "Quaderni Comunisti"

QC - The disruption of the USSR created a qualitatively new situation in the world structure characterised by the end of bi-polarism. Taking into account the developments of the last three or four years, don't you think there is a need to define the fundamental and lasting tendencies that have appeared and are appearing in the new international situation?

AC - The expression bi-polarism used to portray the world situation in the second half of the 20th century has a double meaning: on the one hand bi-polarism meaning the existence of two world camps with antagonistic socio-economic systems and struggling the one (capitalism) for its survival and the other (socialism) for the revolutionary transformation of society; on the other hand bi-polarism seen as a balance of forces at world level between the two systems and between the most powerful countries on both sides (the USSR and the US). With the collapse of the USSR (together with that of other East-European countries) the world balance of forces tipped towards capitalism although this does not mean that capitalism has overcome either its exploitative, oppressive and aggressive nature or the general crisis in which it is submerged.

Two major elements may be identified which will determine the future development of the world situation.

On the one hand, a general imperialist offensive to re-establish and impose its world hegemony and domination at the economic, social, political, cultural and military levels.

On the other hand, in the different conditions prevailing in different countries, the struggle against imperialism of the workers, the peoples, nations and States, including of course (as an important element) those which, with diverse solutions, insist on building a socialist society.

In the short run the first element may continue to gain ground. In the long run, world developments will eventually be determined by the second element. In the medium term all will depend on the course of the confrontation between the two elements.

QC - In Marxist thinking there is a line of interpretation that stresses, as a dominant trait in the new international context, a tri-polar structure of imperialist domination (US, Germany, Japan) with a strong internal competition that could define a new acute and lasting stage of inter-imperialist competition. Other approaches stress, on the other hand, that "camp solidarity" among the major capitalist powers in relation to "Third World" peoples and countries (the so-called "centre-periphery" contradiction) is the dominant element in the new international developments. What are your views on this?

AC - Only some ideas, as food for thought, on these issues. In the new international developments one can consider not only one, but three, dominant and contradictory elements.

The first is the general imperialist offensive that takes advantage of the new world balance of forces. In this offensive imperialism has a common strategy and tries to reach common decisions and guidelines together with forms of co-ordination and co-operation among the richest and most powerful countries (namely the US, the big countries in the European Union and Japan) to increase the exploitation of the workers and peoples of the so-called Third World, liquidate rights won during the 20th century, stamp out any centres of resistance and revolutionary struggle.

The second element is the sharpening of contradictions among the richest and most powerful and influential countries and between these and the less developed and poorer capitalist countries which, although politically part of the general imperialist offensive, are confined to a subsidiary and peripheral position. This is the case in the European Union but also in other regions of the world.

The third is the class struggle in each capitalist country and the clash between imperialism and the workers, peoples and countries it exploits and dominates.

We do not consider that, on its own, any of these elements will determine events in the near future. All co-exist today in the international situation and the final outcome will be the product of all three.

QC - Do you still consider "imperialism" as a valid interpretative category in analysing the more recent developments of contemporary capitalism? Major updates in what concerns the classical edifice of Lenin's analysis are necessary.

AC - In the fifty years between Marx's "Capital" and the turning of the 19th to the 20th century, capitalist development led to far-reaching changes identified by Lenin: control of the economy by the monopolies, rise of finance capital and the financial oligarchy, the growing importance of capital exports relative to the export of goods, the partition of the world among international monopoly associations and the completion of the world's territorial division among the strongest capitalist powers. Lenin emphasised one of these traits. "Imperialism - he defined in synthesis - is the monopoly stage of capitalism".

In the almost one hundred years that have elapsed since then, new elements have intervened in capitalist development. On the one hand, due to the repercussions in the economy and in the international situation brought about by the major capitalist contradictions, two World Wars, the struggle of the workers and peoples, the building of socialism in the USSR and in other countries, the collapse of colonialism and the national liberation revolutions. On the other hand, due to the consequences of the scientific and technological revolution, with its new and revolutionary technologies, particularly after World War II, and the ensuing changes in the dynamics of the productive forces and in the social composition of contemporary societies including those in the more developed countries.

The growing socialisation and internationalisation of the productive processes, the deeper international division of labour, the increasing inequalities in development, all led to the appearance of giant transnational economic groups and to economic integration processes which, starting from relatively limited areas of interests and intervention, gave rise to global solutions, first of an economic nature and later spreading to new social, political and military spheres.

These developments do not and will not eliminate competition and other internal contradictions of capitalism, particularly between the more developed countries. They have, however, led to new forms and instruments of co-operation among the big monopoly groups, which seek to ensure joint management and planning policies and measures for regional and world domination. The role played by the IMF and the World Bank, the foreign debt and economic policy diktats and blockades, are all examples of these developments.

In the more developed capitalist countries, the monopolies' economic power leads to their merger with political power (State monopoly capitalism). In the same way,in the economic integration systems the big monopoly groups and the transnational corporations are creating international institutions of supranational domination and government, including military integration systems. The European Union represents an advanced stage of this process and the Maastricht Treaty with its federalist character would in fact mean, if implemented, the materialisation of a European government merged with the dominant monopoly forces. In simple terms one could speak of an international State monopoly capitalism in the framework of the EU integration process.

The way in which the US manipulate and use the UN for their policies of intervention, aggression and war, to achieve world domination, is another example and feature of imperialism's institutional political instruments.

Imperialism thus has traits, only briefly discussed here, that distinguish it from the imperialism of the beginning of the century. However, it maintains its exploitative, oppressive and aggressive nature and its aspirations to world hegemony. The expression "imperialism" continues to be entirely adequate.

QC - The world-wide historical process of transition to socialism has been, in the light of this century's experience, much longer and more complex than had been conceived and predicted by the founders of scientific socialism and by the major figures of this century's communist movement. More or less explicitely, even when they had very different outlooks and strategies, all of them viewed ours as the century that would witness the decisisve crisis of the capitalist system and the world-wide victory of socialism. Events have shown that they underrated capitalism's potential for development and self-regulation, and overrated the potential of the first transitional experiences. If this is so, what are the implications for communists in terms of defining a new international startegy that will live up to the times? Don't you believe that we must, among other things, avoid propagandist or catastrophic analyses of the traits of contemporary capitalism's crisis if we are to make our project for change credible and realistic, albeit without renouncing the communists' historical goals?

AC - We have considered some of those important points as incontrovertible. Namely: the building of a socialist society, a society of a new kind which, for the first time in thousands of years of History, set out to abolish the exploitation of man by man and antagonistic classes, has turned out to be longer, more difficult, irregular and fraught with accidents than initially predicted and proclaimed not only by the 19th century founders of scientific socialism but also by communists throughout the 20th century. Capitalism's potentialities were underestimated and socialism's potentialities overrated. Based on supposedly objective laws which, at most were an indication of trends in economic and social development, socialism's world-wide victory over capitalism was predicted within a, historically speaking, extremely short time-scale. The process was considered inexorable, inevitable and irreversible. Critical analysis of the facts was replaced by dogmatized views and propagandistic purposes, which led to illusions and misconceptions.

This critical assessment does not, however, invalidate the opinion that the 1917 Russian revolution and the process of socialist construction in the USSR and in many other countries constituted and determined, over and above all the positive and negative experiences and solutions, far-reaching victories in the workers' and peoples ' liberation struggle, as well as a historic step of imperishable significance in human society's millennial history.

Class struggle is still, ultimately, the driving force in social development.

Today, the way ahead may not lie in attempts to define a world-wide strategy for communists. Whilst strengthening cooperation and, whenever possible, common action among communist parties, it is important to define guidelines in each country according to the specific situations. It is important to trust the potentialities of the workers and peoples' experience, will and struggle. It is important to define short and medium term goals, having always on the horizon the fundamental goal which determined the creation and inspired the struggle of communist parties during the 20th century: the building of a new society free from exploitation of man by man, from which the great inequalities, injustices and social scourges will have been eradicated.

QC - The credibility of a communist position today, after the "Soviet model's" collapse and the end of the USSR, requires a settling of accounts with the historical experience that began with the October Revolution and which was the hallmark of the communist movement in our century: an overall assessment must be made. In a recent speech of yours, you said that history will recall the 20th Century not as the century of the "demise of communism", but rather as that in which the communist movement was born and took its first steps. What did you mean by that?

AC - In evaluating the role and importance of the 1917 Russian revolution and the building of socialism in the Soviet Union, it is essential to bear in mind that, for first time in Humankind's millennial history, human beings undertook the construction of a new society whose major trait was the end of the exploitation of man by man and of the inequalities, injustices and social scourges that characterise capitalism and which had, in different ways, characterised previous societies.

Indignation, revolt, dream and utopia were, for the first time in history, embodied into a political project, revolutionary action and the building of a new society.

This is what I meant when I said that, contrary to what the champions of capitalism proclaim, the 20th century was not the century of the death of communism but the century in which communism was born, as a concrete revolutionary endeavour: building a new society of true liberation for human beings.

QC -In the debate on the reasons behind the Soviet system's crisis and demise, there are those who stress the distortions that piled up during the previous decades and tend to present the experience of perestroika and the Gorbachov leadership's activity as a desperate and generous attempt by a surgeon who is operating on a terminally ill patient and who cannot therefore be held responsible for the patient's death. And there are those who, whilst recognising the limitations and distortions that had accumulated for decades, stress the Gorbachov leadership's subjective responsibilities in having turned a crisis into a rout which could have been avoided, as is partly demonstrated by the different outcome of the Chinese or Vietnamese "perestroikas". Which of those assessments do you consider most correct?

AC - There is no doubt that developments in the economic, social and political situation, including the CPSU's policies, life and activity, contained negative elements of an objective nature that accumulated throughout the years and led to the USSR's collapse.

This accumulation of negative elements and the course of events revealed the "leadership's subjective responsibility". Firstly, because of policies and solutions increasingly divorced from the objective requirements of social development and from the communist ideal's fundamental aims. They led to a gradual debasement of socialism and to the emergence of a "model" that eventually led to disintegration and defeat. Secondly, the leadership was responsible for the analysis and direction of the "restructuring" plan ("perestroika"). Proclaiming, at the outset, that it was - as required - a plan to strengthen socialism, the leadership repudiated the whole past of heroic struggle and the historically valuable experiences of building a new society. Underestimating imperialism's nature and strength, it led to a process which eliminated fundamental traits and achievements of socialism and to the gradual restoration of capitalism, characterised by a profound economic, social, cultural, national, ideological and moral debasement and collapse.

If we are to single out individual responsibilities, Gorbachov stands out as the number one culprit for that great historic disaster which was the USSR's collapse and disintegration, with all its consequences. Gorbachov was not merely one among many who were to blame. In this whole process he was the theoretician and the top leader in the Party and State. We have only to recall what Gorbachov himself wrote and said throughout these years to confirm that - as he himself later confessed - he concealed his real intentions from the party and the people.

QC - The Soviet system's crisis has proved to be the crisis of a "model", not just the result of mistakes. If this is true, it requires a global re-assessment of essential aspects of the transition and cannot be reduced to mere "corrections" within a framework of, essentially, continuity.

AC - First of all it should be stressed that the 1917 Russian revolution, the victorious undertaking of building the first workers' and peasants' State, with extraordinary achievements in many areas, was an event of universal value and significance. It had a decisive influence in the development and victories of the liberation struggle of the working class, workers and peoples throughout the world during the 20th century.

The collapse of socialism in those countries was the result, not of mere "mistakes", but of a "model" that became established in the USSR and in other countries as the result of a growing divorce from the essential principles of a socialist society always proclaimed by the communists. The 13th PCP (Extraordinary) Congress held on May 18-20, 1990, examined the radical changes taking place in several East European countries where "anti-socialist forces seized power and led their countries towards capitalist restoration and integration into the world capitalist system".

Besides considering the external factors, the Congress pointed out as major causes of the situation, five negative features which were contrary to fundamental principles of the communist ideal: the replacement of people's power by a centralised political power structure which was increasingly divorced from the people's yearnings, opinion and will; serious limitations to political democracy, together with the growth of the State's repressive character and disrespect for the law; an economy with excessively centralised State property and the elimination of other forms of property and management, together with disdain for the market's role and a demotivation of workers' participation and productivity; a highly centralised Party leadership and a bureaucratic centralism imposing administrative decisions both in the party and in the State, due to the fusion and confusion between State and Party functions; and lastly, the dogmatisation and abuse of Marxism-Leninism, with its imposition as the State ideology.

These negative experiences are universally valid. Any attempts to copy this "model" can lead to new defeats.

In our opinion what failed was not the communist ideal or its political project, but a "model" that was implemented and that strayed from essential tenets of that project.

These tenets are part of our Party's project for a future socialist society in Portugal, entailing specific solutions that take into account our own experiences together with the positive and negative experiences and lessons of the revolutionary movement.

QC - In this respect, how do you assess the emergence of this new notion of a "socialist market", of a new balance between plan and market, between public and private economic activities?

AC - The expression "market economy" is misleading on two counts. Because it attempts to replace the expression "capitalist economy" that defines the nature of the economic system. And because the "market" is not simply a concept in economic theory and an element of the capitalist economy. The "market" is an objective reality both in the capitalist and in the socialist systems.

It was, on the one hand, because they closed their eyes to this fact and, on the other hand, because they applied a dogmatic interpretation of Marx's theory on capitalism as a system producing "commodities", that the USSR and other East European countries developed an incorrectly centralised planned economy disdaining the opinion and actual economic behaviour of the consumer (company or individual). This led to almost exclusively quantitative criteria, to routine production and produce, and to technical and technological stagnation. The result of all this was consumer dissatisfaction or even refusal and a slowing down in the productive forces' development.

It is therefore justified, on the basis of experience, to consider the need to analyse the "socialist market" which can of course have different traits, according to the specific conditions in each country.

In what concerns the socio-economic structures, the State's position in basic and strategic sectors and economic planning are inherent characteristics of a socialist economy. But experience has shown that an excessively large State- owned sector is not a good solution. On the contrary, it leads us to think that, in building a socialist society, the best solution during a long historical period may be to have diversified economic formations in different sectors of the economy (always according to each country's specific conditions).

QC - How do you assess the most recent developments of the situation in Russia and the other CIS republics, which are so decisive for the world's balance of forces? Do you think that the process of capitalist restoration and of normalization within the new world order can be considered irreversible for a long period of time, or, on the contrary, do you see forces and processes capable of bringing about a progressive reversal of trends?

AC - The widespread idea among the communist movement in this century, that the construction of socialism and communism in the USSR was irreversible, was based mostly on a dogmatic interpretation of the "objective laws" of social development and on a real underestimation of subjective factors. This led to several mistakes, among which were wrong forecasts.

Capitalist ideologists today may be incurring in a similar mistake when they speak of the irreversibility of capitalist restoration. Life is showing that it was easier to disorganise, break up and destroy socialist structures than it is to restore capitalism in those countries.

Furthermore, there are clear indications that the peoples, although not wanting to restore a failed "model" , are becoming aware of the many things that socialism brought them and that they have lost with the counter-revolutionary process.

QC - In your opinion, what are the fundamental driving forces for a renewed revolutionary process in the new world situation, what are the cornerstones necessary to re-build an anti-imperialist front?

AC - First of all we must consider, in each country and at a world level, which are the classes, social strata, peoples and countries whose fundamental interests are directly affected by imperialist exploitation, oppression and domination. Then, in accordance with this analysis, we must determine, in each country, which are the political forces, organisations, mass movements, cultural movements, military sectors, institutions and governments that, on the basis of concrete interests and objectives, oppose imperialism. An anti-imperialist front objectively has a huge potential.

As driving forces we have to consider the working class and the wage workers in general, the peasant masses, the cultural forces, the broad-based mass movements and organisations and those parties that in their programs and in their action defend and interpret the interests, aspirations and objectives of their peoples and countries. The range of alliances is very broad and diverse. The communist parties and other progressive parties with similar goals have a decisive role to play.

QC - How do you assess the Socialist International's evolution and role in the new world context?

AC - The line and action of social-democratic and socialist parties vary a great deal from country to country. It is however true that in many countries, social-democracy provides no true alternative to right-wing policies. If one can speak of a historic role at a given moment, then the role of social democracy and of the Socialist International today, in spite of their left wing sectors, is to contribute towards the consolidation of monopoly capitalism and its economic and political power; to fight and contain the working class movement and the workers' and peoples' liberation struggle; and in particular to fight the communists, their history, their present activity and the prospects for their assertion in the future.

This assessment of the role of the Socialist International and of the social democratic parties does not rule out that the specific conditions prevailing in some countries may justify common action among communists, socialists and social democrats, to oppose and defeat the right wing, and particularly the more reactionary forces.

One last comment: we understand that there are progressive forces who look to the Socialist International for support for their struggle, which is in conflict with the Socialist International's global role.

QC - In your opinion, what should be the characteristics and forms of a new internationalism, which can live up to the times? Is there a specific role for the communists in this respect, or is the notion of "communist movement" - in its world-wide dimension - historically obsolete? The latter would refute the very idea of re-building a movement and international links between the communists, autonomously and as something distinct from a broader left-wing front, to which they would belong.

AC - Your question raises several major issues. For the communists during the 20th century, internationalism meant class-based internationalism. Hence the expression "proletarian internationalism". There is another idea underlying this concept: that capitalist society is basically characterised by its division into exploited and exploiting classes with antagonistic interests, namely the bourgeoisie which owns the means of production, and the proletariat which has the labour force. The workers and oppressed peoples the world over, having capitalism as their enemy, share common interests. This gives rise to solidarity, mutual assistance and internationalism, as principles and as a mode of conduct. The working-class movement and particularly the communist movement were the bearers of internationalist ideas and practice in the 20th century. The communists' internationalist action was one of the driving forces in the liberation struggle of the workers and peoples of the world and in their great historic victories.

The world's evolution gives new scope to internationalism. It extends to all forces fighting against exploitation and oppression. It encompasses not only the working class and the workers, but social and political forces fighting for freedom, democracy, social progress, national independence and socialism. But it still retains, as its deepest root, its class nature from which stems its anti-capitalist identity. The idea of a "new internationalism", abandoning those essential economic and social traits, and viewed as co-operation and solidarity among "left wing forces" - which, as a matter of fact, have very ill-defined contours - is no longer internationalism. It is better defined as a system of necessary and desirable alliances of a more or less conjunctural nature.

QC - Should the notion of "communist autonomy" which the communist parties claim in their national realities, and which does not contradict a left-wing unity policy, be extended and demanded also on an international level?

AC - Historically, communist parties originated from the awareness that the working class and workers needed their own political organisation: a political party not only autonomous but independent from the bourgeoisie's interests, policies and ideological influence which is to say, from the forces of capital.

In our opinion the need for such parties continues to exist in each country: parties with a project for social change, for the building of a new society free from capitalism; a project which necessarily takes into account the situation, the problems, the national conditions and experiences, the positive and negative experiences, the victories and defeats in the attempt to build socialism in many countries of the world.

If communist parties (regardless of their name) are necessary, so is the need for their international co-operation. In spite of all the shortcomings, the existing co- operation represents in fact a real movement in the world today.

The communist movement has undergone deep changes throughout the years, with many upheavals and internal conflicts: from the middle of the 19th century to the setting up of the Communist International; having a centralised leadership (1921- 1943); from 1943 to the eighties with what was in effect the political hegemony of the CPSU in the framework of a gradual, albeit irregular, national assertion of each communist party. Today, and particularly after the collapse of the USSR, the situation is characterised by the disappearance or weakening of large and influential parties and by a great dispersion and fragmentation.

The communist movement - though seriously weakened - still exists and is necessary.

The scope, composition and characteristics of the communist movement today cannot be defined by political forces' names, but by their goals and action - with the independence of each party or political force involved; and also with the independence and assertion of the communist movement as such, in the context of broader social and political forces, in each country, regionally, and world-wide.

A so-called "left unity" policy entailing the fading away or dilution of communist parties in broad movements or organisations, will not only weaken the communist parties and lead to their disappearance, but also weakens the overall strength of the left.

QC - Why did your Party have a critical view of the experience known as "eurocommunism"? Just under twenty years have elapsed since then and many things have happened in both East and West (from the USSR's collapse to the Italian CP's self-dissolution). In today's light, could you attempt to make a global assessment of what eurocommunism was?

AC - I don't wish to make an assessment but only some brief comments. The ideological and political line known as "eurocommunism" was not characterised by having defined a "European communism" or a "European path to socialism" but by having deviated from the fundamental tenets and goals of the revolutionary heritage and of the real achievements of the communists' struggle up to that time.

Some typical characteristics of "Eurocommunism" were: the class nature and stands of the communist parties were abandoned; the power of monopolies and imperialism was passed into silence; revolutionary theory, particularly Lenin's contributions, were rejected; bourgeois democracy and its undemocratic rules and practices were accepted as the preferential and fundamental line for the communists' action; the achievements, victories and experiences of the USSR and other countries in the building of socialism were disparaged; the ties of friendship and co-operation with other communist parties were neglected or came second, with priority being given to relations with socialist and social-democratic parties; the praise and encouragement proffered by the right was favourably acknowledged.

In what regards Portugal, I must recall that, at crucial moments during the April revolution (1974/75), some well-known eurocommunist leaders were very critical towards the PCP and the Portuguese revolution while, at the same time, they were on very friendly terms with the Socialist Party, whose counter-revolutionary positions they praised and supported.

An argument frequently mentioned in favour of eurocommunism is its stand in defence of democracy. However, eurocommunism, in terms of its political line and action, did not defend or deepen the necessary and intrinsic relations between socialism and democracy. Eurocommunism minimised the social and economic elements of socialism and, without proffering any creative forms of socialist democracy, praised the undemocratic principles and practices of bourgeois democracy.

At that time we said that eurocommunism was the path, not towards a European communism and a renewal and strengthening of the communist parties, but towards their conversion into social-democratising parties. For some of those parties, the facts have confirmed our warning. Eurocommunism's ideas and practice are, to a large extent, responsible for the deterioration, splits, and in many cases, the actual disappearance of communist parties that in certain periods were influential political forces in their respective countries.

QC - How do you assess the formation of the "Confederal Left Unity Group" in the European Parliament? How can one define its role, both within and outside the institutions of the European Union?

AC - First of all it is worth noting that the European Parliament, due to its composition, powers and the relative weight of the different political groups can hardly be a real ruling body in the European Union. Even less can it, in the near future, oppose the plan of monopoly domination which is the very essence of the European Union defined in the Maastricht Treaty. It can nevertheless have a more constructive role than other bodies, namely the Council, which is controlled by the rich and more powerful countries.

Taking these limitations into account, the establishment of the "Confederal Left Unity Group" is a very positive development which reinforces the action of communists and other left-wing forces in the European Union institutions. The unity achieved, with respect for the autonomy and diversity of the parties involved, is a valuable asset in the present situation. All must be done to strengthen it.

The establishment of the new Group may also encourage, as we hope, a stronger co-operation among its members, along multiple fronts and in multiple forms involving their struggle for common interests and goals.

QC - What are the fundamental reasons for your Party's aversion to the idea of European institutions of a federal nature, as provided for by the Maastricht Treaty? How do you view the objections of those who say that today, faced with capital's growing internationalization, it would be backward-looking to stress a policy defending national sovereignty and independence?

AC - The issues raised are of the utmost importance today. In a brief answer I would make four comments.

First: the Maastricht Treaty introduces qualitatively new elements in the European Community. The principle of "co-operation" among free States with equal rights is replaced by the principle of a "common policy" decided by supranational bodies where the actual decision power belongs to the more powerful and richer countries and to which the less developed countries must submit, thus relinquishing their fundamental attributes of national sovereignty and independence. This concerns economic, financial, industrial, agricultural, fisheries policies, foreign policy and security policy. Military integration is present as an instrument and a complement.

The Maastricht Treaty represents the implementation of a strategy for the economic, social, political, cultural and national domination of Europe by big monopoly capital and by the richest and most powerful States whose governments are at the service of monopoly capital.

European institutions of a federal type, in the framework of the Maastricht Treaty, are an example of a new and higher expression (or stage) of monopoly capital, inevitably leading to greater exploitation of the workers and working classes as a whole.

A second comment.

It is an illusion to think that the creation of supranational bodies and the advancement of the federalist integration process will lead to the widespread development of a "supranational conscience" and "European identity" overcoming and obliterating nations' feelings, objectives and yearning for independence. Time will show that it will be exactly the opposite. A political and economic integration process, in which a policy dictated by the most powerful States is imposed on the other member States, is a brewing pot for centrifugal nationalist outbursts on the part of nations and States whose sovereignty is impaired. In this context, federalist solutions bear in themselves the seeds of their own destruction.

Third comment.

The major consequences of European integration for Portugal are very serious. With a policy of national capitulation, the right wing government sacrifices Portuguese interests to foreign interests. Obeying European community impositions, national production (agriculture, industry, fisheries) has been systematically destroyed. Workers' fundamental rights are liquidated. Big monopoly groups from the fascist era are restored. Foreign capital's dominant positions in key sectors of the economy are strengthened. There is a colossal centralisation and accumulation of capital while, at the same time, vast areas of poverty, suffering and desertification grow. It is true that Portugal receives vast sums of money from the Community. Beautiful highways are built. But instead of economic and social cohesion the gap between Portugal and the more developed European countries is growing.

Fourth comment.

The internationalisation of productive processes, the international division of labour, the growing interrelations in the fields of science and technology, economic integration processes of varying extent are all, at the close of the century, elements of the world's economic development both in capitalist and socialist economies. This economic development is presently controlled by big monopoly capital, in the framework of the offensive led by imperialism to re-establish its world hegemony.

The PCP is not in favour of isolationist or autarchic solutions. We stand for international co-operation and an economic policy that takes into account these objective trends of development. We fight against the international power of monopolies, defending the interests of workers, of the working masses and of all peoples. In what concerns Portugal, we fight for a truly democratic and truly national policy.

QC - What are the fundamental traits of your democratic and alternative European project, including the reform or transformation of the European Union's current institutions?

AC - We stand for a Europe of co-operation among free and sovereign States with equal rights, a Europe in which economic and social cohesion and the social dimension of development are actually achieved.

We can define five fundamental directions:

First : a social Europe with employment, justice and equality ,that is to say: a gradual harmonisation of minimum social standards, a real convergence of wage levels, a growing participation of workers in decisions concerning social issues, true social equality between men and women, a policy to solve the serious problems facing the young and the elderly.

Second: a true, and not merely nominal, convergence of the economies and development with the elimination of regional inequalities. This requires, among other measures, the development and not the destruction of the productive system in the less developed regions and countries, a correct utilisation of structural funds and the recognition of specific situations requiring specific measures and opt-out clauses. An extensively revised community environment policy must be a constant element of the development policy.

Third: support for education and culture with respect for national and regional differences so as to increase mutual knowledge and exchanges, to encourage creativity, to achieve a high standard of qualifications, the elimination of the more serious asymmetries, the protection and promotion of a dynamic cultural heritage.

Fourth: respect for and upholding of citizens' rights and freedoms namely the defence of emigrants, the fight against racism and xenophobia, strengthening the democratic institutions' power of decision-making and action. This implies a refusal of the Maastricht provisions concerning justice and internal affairs, of the Schengen agreement and of a police controlled and repressive system in Europe.

Fifth: a collective security system based on the co- operation among equal and sovereign States with a right to their own foreign policy, requiring respect for the peoples' choices, an end to interventions and interferences and renouncing a bloc policy in what concerns the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

The democratic policy we propose for Portugal does not conflict with the policy we support for Europe.

In what concerns the revision of the Maastricht Treaty, scheduled for 1996, we should strive to eliminate the more negative aspects and fight against any attempt to strengthen federalist trends. The same applies to the concept of a "two-or-more-speed Europe" and to a greater centralisation of powers in the richest and more powerful countries. Significant examples of these trends are the proposals to have a European Constitution and to turn the European Council into a real European Government.

QC - If we look at the events surrounding the main European Communist (or Marxist left) parties after the 1989 earthquake and the aftershocks of the following two-three years, we see that today - even in terms of the recent European elections - there is a trend towards an overall consolidation or even recovery, which includes the East. I'm thinking, for example, of your Party, of the French CP, of the German PDS, of the Greek KKE, of the Spanish Communists and of Izquierda Unida, of Italy's Rifondazione Comunista, of the Finnish CP, of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, of the Czech-Moravian CP, of the Ukranian CP, even of the CP of the Russian Federation. What is your assessment of this?

AC - The facts you mentioned reflect some recovery of the communists' role in society. They give the communists reason to have more confidence in themselves, in their cause and in how necessary their struggle is for the workers and peoples.

In our opinion, if the communist parties (under that name or another name) finding creative answers to new situations and learning from experience, consistently defend with firmness, dedication and courage, the interests of the workers and the peoples of their countries; if they present policies and concrete solutions for existing problems; if they keep alive their ideal of social change and speak out for it, they will eventually recover lost positions, increase and strengthen the workers' and the masses' confidence in them - which is the essential basis and pre-condition for strengthening the parties themselves.

The election results are not only a sign of this recovery but also an important and sometimes decisive goal for the increase in the parties' influence and action. But we know that, in practically all capitalist countries, there are real discriminations in terms of rights, material resources and opportunities, particularly in what concerns the media. It is also a fact that the ruling forces pass, change and adopt election laws that, with "election engineering" methods, drastically restrict the communists' presence in all State bodies and institutions. That is why the struggle in defence of democratic laws and, even more, political struggle and mass struggle in general, are of the utmost importance. Besides elections, communists have other means of action and influence in social and political life allowing them, whatever the circumstances, to deepen their social roots and strengthen their influence.

QC - What repercussions did the right-wing's victory in Italy and the formation of the Berlusconi government have in your country? And what analyses did it give rise to, in your Party?

AC - The most significant aspect of those repercussions was the attempt by the right to obtain political and ideological arguments from this victory: against the proclaimed failure of the democratic regime; against the parties; against the "politicians"; demagogically promoting "civil society" and the "independents" and trying to legitimise the right to rule by those who own and control the mass media (television, radio and newspapers). And all this with arguments put forward, not only by fascists hankering for the past dictatorship and public enemies of the April revolution, but also by the PSD in power and by the Socialist Party. Both sought a "reform of the political system" through a revision of the Constitution that would eliminate fundamental aspects of political democracy achieved with the April revolution and pave the way for a two-party monopoly on the political system, accepting at most, to alternate between the two without any real differences in terms of major goals. This revision did not, in the end, materialize thanks to the democratic opposition and to the rivalries and power struggles between the PSD and the PS.

For the more coherent democratic sectors, the developments in Italy and the reactionary forces' victory was a warning as to the real danger of fascism that for many no longer existed.

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