At a festive rally, attended by over 300 people, the foundation of Alternative Socialist Movement (MAS) was announced. It stems out of members of the Left Block to which the trend Ruptura/Fer used to belong. The rally was held on Saturday 10 March in the Worker’s Voice in Lisbon. 

“In spite of all the criticism we pose to the current left, we have not been misled as to who the enemy of the workers is: the government and the Troika. Stemming out of that was our long-standing proposal a left alliance between CP, the Block, socialists adverse to austerity, independent and now, MAS for a broad joint of struggle against the Troika and the PSD/CDS administration”, said Gil Garcia, leader of the MAS.

Representatives of various parts of the country, such as Barcelos, Braga, Combra, Mariha Grande, Amadora, Lisbon, Almada, Beja and Algarve participated in the event. There were trade union activists, students and popular movements participating for they regarded that the new party as a spark of hope to develop political activity without the vices of the new and the old left whose activity hinged round parliamentary tasks and/or the maintenance of trade union apparatus. Also participating in the event were the representatives of various parties of the International Workers’ League (IWL-FI), a Trotskyist international organisation of which MAS is an affiliated member. After the contributions by André Pestana (precarised teacher), Angel Luis Parras from Corriente Roja of Spain and Gil García from the MAS, there was a concert of Portuguese music.

{module Propaganda 30 anos}Previous to that, members of Ruptura/FER held a founding Congress of the MAS. Ruptura/FER used to be member of the Left Block since its foundation in 1999 and, shortly before the event, they made their disaffiliation public by means of a manifesto bearing 217 signatures. Their Programme Manifesto and their Statutes were passed at the founding Congress of the MAS. As from now tasks will be undertaken to obtain the legalization from the Constitutional Tribunal a goal for which 7 500 signatures will be required. Materials were distributed among those present in order to help the party with this difficult undertaking.

What follows is an interview to four MAS militants; it is to clarify the objectives of the new party.

Ten questions and answers about MAS

Why did Ruptura/FER get out of the Left Block?

Gil Garcia: The Block surfaced in the Portuguese society as a gust of fresh air and a great expectation. It was a party with anticapitalist grassroots that was brave enough to say what nobody else dared to say. Because the expectation was so great, it soon turned into tremendous disappointment. The party even defended the presidential candidature of Manuel Alegre, who was supported by José Sócrates (SP), during the latest presidential elections. Gone was the courage to defend positions nobody would defend. As for the problem of the debts is concerned, the Left Block defends the same thing as what the present-day Socialist Party defends: renegotiation of the debt. Little was left of the irreverence. Today LB is rather an institutional party, accommodated to lobbies. So it was time for us to retrieve some of our old irreverence and political courage. This is what MAS will now do.

Why create a new party?

G.G. Unlike what many people believe to be true, there are not many parties in Portugal. What certainly does not exist is a determined kind of party, a left party willing to take up the battle for a new 25 April, which will engrave the need for a social and political revolution in its programme to definitely alter the type of unfair society that is increasingly established in Portugal. The Communist Party is still clinged to dictatorships on the international scope, as in China and North Korea. And the CP and the LB share the orientation for the debt issue: they stand for the renegotiation of terms of instalments and interests. This means they stand for paying it. Actually I see these two parties very comfortable acting the eternal parliamentary opposition, “well mannered” opposition, living off State grants for parties. We need an alternative. That is why we got out of LB to build the MAS.

What is the MAS programme?

GG: The programme of the new party is beginning to respond to the social war underway waged by the Passos Coelho and Paulo Portas rightist administration. Repudiation of austerity is the touchstone of the entire programme but, in order to reject austerity it is necessary to challenge the joint power of the right by means of joint power of the left. In spite of all the criticism we pose to the current left, we have not been misled as to who the enemy of the workers is: the government and the Troika. Because of that we have proposed for a long time a left alliance between CP, the Block, socialists adverse to austerity, independent and now, MAS of a broad joint struggle against the Troika and the PSD/CDS administration. The first measure if we are to get the country out of the crisis must be to suspend the payments of the debt. Without these resources of thousand of millions of Euros that every day leak out of the pockets of those who work (99% of the population) and are used directly for the payment of the debt of the millionaire owners of finances and to the French and German banks there will be no way to generate jobs in Portugal and to put an end to cuts in wages and retirement funds.

What is the difference between the MAS and the remaining left parties?

João Pascoal: Apart from what has been mentioned above, MAS also differs from the others in another aspect. LB concentrates on parliamentary tasks and depends on the funds of this institution. Obviously, it exerts pressure to ensure that their policy should hinge round the conquest of votes and not in the daily battles of workers, in factories, schools and call centres. It is there, among the most oppressed and exploited, that measures of austerity can be defeated and a battle can be fought for a new 25th April. What is more, we are a party that is financially self sufficient for it is self-sustained from the regular financial contributions of the militants and of workers and young people who agree with us and support us financially.

How will MAS act in the trade union struggle?

JP: There two central elements that differentiate our action. The first one is class independence. UGT has just signed a shameful agreement to social compromise and so revealed that they are in the service of the employers and not of the workers. But CGTP, who walked out on the negotiations, is also bent on giving a privileged status to parleys with employers and not to clear and consistent defence of workers. As a sample, we see the position taken by the FENPROF [national union of teachers] during the struggle of the teachers in 2008, when a memorandum of understanding was signed with the minister of education accepting what was a historic retreat for these professionals. Furthermore, many of their trade unions refuse to defend workers who are not affiliated, which proves that they are more interested in their trade unions than in defending workers.

And last, we defend the most ample trade union democracy. The CGTP trade unions as well as those belonging to UGT take their decisions totally disconnected from the grassroots. For many decades now, most of their trade union leaders have been on the union’s payroll and therefore away from their place of work for much too long. Workers’ are never consulted on issues that concern them deeply, such as going on strike, agreements with the companies, better wages, loss of rights, closure of the main workplaces, etc. We believe that it is the workers who have to decide on the main issues of the unions and companies. At the same time, trade union leaders should take turn in the secretariats and so remain in touch with everyday life of workers.

What are the international links of MAS?

Sofia Rajado: We are living in an increasingly globalised world. Workers and young people can find no solution to their problems within the limited national scope. The ruling class is organised internationally in such institutions as World Bank, NATO and UN. We believe that workers and young people should also be organised internationally and so become fit to face the social war that the rich are waging against the vast majority of the population. Demonstrations of solidarity with Arab revolutions or the existence of a world day’s struggle, such as the 15th October, are expressions of this need and first steps in that direction. That is why the intervention of MAS is also international, for it is the Portuguese section of the International Workers’ League – IWL

What do you think of the struggle of women and other oppressed sectors?

SR: We know that capitalism uses differences of gender, of the colour of our skins, of sexual orientation or nationality in order to further the exploitation of workers. Oppressed sectors are affected most brutally by the consequences of the economic crisis, such as unemployment and poverty. We also know that oppression divides and weakens workers in their battle against the employers and governments. The MAS stands against any kind of oppression and is overtly engaged in the struggles of immigrants, women, Blacks and homosexuals who stand up for their rights.

What does MAS propose for the crisis?

André Pestana: We can have the necessary resources to re-launch production and create jobs provided we interrupt the payments of the debt. In order to put an end to unemployment, it is necessary to reduce labour day without reducing wages. It is necessary to lower the age for old-age pensions and to work out a plan of public works that will generate more jobs. To put an end to the robbery of our country performed by the banks, it is even necessary to nationalise these banks and the strategic corporations and channel these funds into the service for the creation of jobs, improve public service and living standards of the population. Why should we only nationalise banks when they produce deficit and make them private when they produce profit?

Does MAS stand for socialism?

AP: We reject the experiments of administering capitalism with social-democrats as protagonists as well as the totalitarian regimes dominated by a sole party as those that occurred in various parts of the world with the Communist Parties. However we consider that the struggle for socialism as the transcending of capitalism is not only increasingly valid but also a present-day necessity if a future for workers and young people is to be attained. This crisis goes to prove that divergently to what many said after the fall of the Berlin Wall, capitalism is unable to solve the basic problems of mankind.

Is a new revolution possible?

AP: If on the 24th of April 1974 [revolution’s previous day] we would have asked the Portuguese people if it was possible to put an end to the dictatorship, most of them would have answered that that it was not. Trotsky used to say that most revolutions seem impossible until they turn inevitable. What we can see today in the North of Africa and in the Middle East is that in countries where for decades dictatorships oppressed populations, people decided to take things in their hands and are making revolutions. We believe that in Portugal we need a new 25th April, a new revolution to stop austerity imposed by the government and the Troika. In their workplace and in the streets, workers and young people are making the first steps in this direction. We believe that there is enough courage and workers’ power to make a new 25th April.


Enter the IWL-FI hot site in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of its foundation and know the history of the construction of its section in Portugal.