Robinson, Peter Forbes
Workers' councils in Portugal 1974-1975.
The Open University.
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Democratic workplace organisations have provided the basic component of every significant working class revolutionary movement. One of the characteristics of revolutionary periods is how readily workplace organisations coordinate their struggles by establishing higher level bodies on the basis of elected delegates. The term "workers' council" is used in this sense - an organisation which links workers from different enterprises.
This thesis provides a substantial background chapter covering the events in Portugal in 1974/5 before describing, in depth, four studies of embryonic workers' councils. The case studies are of:
the Inter-Empresas (May 74 - March 75)
the CRTSMs (April 75 - June 75)
the Popular Assemblies (July 75 - November 75)
the Setubal Comite de Lute (October 75 - November 75)
In choosing the examples the following criteria were selected:
a) the democratic nature of the organisations
b) the importance of the revolutionary left
c) their potential role, as envisaged by the organisation, as an alternative form of power?
The study draws upon first hand experiences as a political organiser in Lisbon, working for a British organisation, and upon interviews, mainly with activists from the revolutionary left. It tries to show some inter-relationship between this revolutionary left and the development of the workers' movement.
The conclusion is in two parts. The first is at the general level. It argues that the organisations managed to capture the limelight for brief moments, yet in retrospect, they never attained a leading role. By looking at the military, the role and failure of the popular power movement and the strength of its counterpart reformism, some suggestions are made as to why the workers' council movement was relatively weak. At the micro level workers' councils type formations are compared, looking specifically at the features identified as being salient.
The conclusion attempts to draw a distinction between the actual strength of the embryonic councils and their potential. However embryonic, the developments have a significance beyond that of the Portuguese political history insofar as they contribute to the body of knowledge about workers' councils and revolutionary activity.
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