Lisbon meeting assesses victories, dangers

Communist parties discuss experiences, prospects

LISBON, Portugal — Joy over a string of election victories in Latin America and the U.S. was mixed with deep concern over the bloodletting in the Middle East when representatives of 64 communist and workers’ parties met here Nov. 10-12.

The ninth annual International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties met in a hotel across the street from Portuguese Communist Party headquarters. PCP General Secretary Jeronimo Carvalho de Sousa welcomed the crowd, citing “signs, although still in early stages, of recovery” for the world communist movement 13 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

There was elation among the participants that Brazilian voters re-elected Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in a landslide. Evo Morales, backed by the Communist Party of Bolivia, was also elected. In Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was charging fraud and refused to concede. Also, only days before, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega had been re-elected president of Nicaragua.

Jose Reinaldo Carvalho, secretary for international relations for the Communist Party of Brazil, told the meeting Lula’s landslide “opens a new page in the path of the Brazilian people’s fight for social and national emancipation.” The right wing, representing “the rotten dominant classes and the Brazilian oligarchies” suffered “humiliating defeat” in their attempt to roll back the working-class-led coalition that backed Lula.

Cautemoc Amezcua Dromundo, first secretary of the Popular Socialist Party of Mexico, said his country is now locked in a crisis of “dual power.” Even if the ultra-right candidate Felipe Calderon imposes his rule, his regime will be seen as “weak and illegitimate,” Amezcua said.

Fernando Estonez Barcielo, chief of the international relations department of the Communist Party of Cuba, hailed Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution victory “despite U.S. acts of aggression, an attempted coup … a virulent press campaign full of lies and distortions and even terrorist and criminal acts.”

Estonez added, “President Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution have won 10 consecutive elections outright and should win again in the presidential elections scheduled for Dec. 3.” [Chavez was re-elected with 62 percent of the vote.]

He offered a resolution, approved unanimously, calling for solidarity with Cuba in ending the U.S. blockade and freeing the Cuban Five imprisoned in the U.S., their “crime” working to expose terrorist gangs in Miami.

The meeting was electrified by the sweeping defeat of the Republican right in the U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had just been fired. Tim Wheeler, representing the Communist Party USA, drew laughter and applause when he told the gathering, “Rumsfeld is out. That’s one down, two to go.”

The elections were the “clearest expression of the class struggle in the United States, pitting the working class and its allies against the most reactionary, warlike, racist sector of monopoly capital,” Wheeler said.

The outcome was a resounding rejection of the Iraq war and the Bush-Cheney ultra-right agenda, he said.

Salam Ali, central committee member of the Iraqi Communist Party, said the U.S. elections were a “tectonic shift” that should speed the end of U.S. occupation of Iraq while insuring “full national sovereignty” and a “unified, democratic and federal Iraq.”

Even so, the cycle of violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Darfur cast a long shadow. Moufid Koutaiche, a political bureau member of the Lebanese Communist Party, told the meeting that 13 members of his party died in combat resisting the Israeli invasion last summer. He described Hezbollah as playing an “objectively anti-imperialist” role in that war.

But other speakers from the Middle East and Africa spoke of their own experiences with Islamic fundamentalist movements and regimes. Navid Shomali, secretary of the international department of Iran’s Tudeh Party, warned that Iran’s reactionary Ahmadinejad regime seized power in an election that “clearly resembled a coup d’etat” and has since unleashed a drive to crush all democratic movements. While posing as “phony heroes of anti-imperialism,” the Ahmadinejad regime has shown “it is capable of working with imperialism once they receive assurances about their future.”

Shomali added, “For us, struggle against imperialism, militarism and war goes hand in hand with the struggle for freedom, democracy, women’s rights, social justice for the deprived working people and the efforts to build a world free from exploitation.” The Tudeh Party’s task is “building the mass movement for an alternative world order and not through military adventurism or acts of terror.”

Fathi el-Fadl, central committee member of the Sudanese Communist Party, outlined his party’s program for ending the mass repression in Darfur and completing the “democratic transformation” of the Sudan. He called for “full implementation of the Naivasha Agreement,” which ended the civil war between the government and the southern-based Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement, and negotiations with all parties to the Darfur conflict, and on the role of African Union and UN peacekeepers.

El-Fadl too spoke of the role of Islamic extremists. “The Muslim Brotherhood staged a coup in Sudan, taking power with the blood of communists.” They pose as the “new enemy of imperialism but they were created and assisted by imperialism,” he continued. “They fan hatred rather than presenting a democratic alternative. Now there is the possibility for the communist parties and the democratic forces to once again rise to present a real alternative.” He urged that the final press release from the Lisbon meeting spell out more clearly “the connection between the struggle for democracy and the struggle for socialism.”

Blade Nzimande, general secretary of the South African Communist Party, said the African National Congress is the ruling party, yet South Africa’s capitalist economy is under the control of the white bourgeoisie with a thin layer of black entrepreneurs whom he described as “compradorial and parasitic.” The vast majority of South Africans are locked in poverty. The ANC gained power by the votes of “the workers and the poor” yet today the “class contestations are increasingly playing themselves out inside the ANC itself.”

The SACP, he continued, has “set itself the task of leading a process of building working-class power in all key sites of influence in South African society” with the aim of ensuring “a socialist-oriented democratic revolution.”

Gennadi Zyuganov, chair of the central committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, urged communist and workers’ parties to send observers to monitor elections to the State Duma, the lower house of Parliament, to help expose elements intent on stealing the election in 2007.

“We will mark the 90th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution next year,” Zyuganov said. “We are planning to meet this anniversary with energetic preparations for the elections. Your participation in the celebration of this great date will be a contribution to our struggle.”