We are publishing below a letter from the Combate group in Portugal. In order to understand and dispel the misunderstandings which have arisen in our relations with this group some explanations are required.
In the midst of the tremendous confusion in which the events in Portugal took place after the fall of the Salazar-Caetano regime, Combate appeared to be the only group situating itself on a class terrain. For this reason we always tried to establish and maintain contact with this group -- by going to see them, by inviting those comrades responsible for making visits to come to Paris to debate with us the problems affecting the proletarian struggle in Portugal, and, equally, by carrying on the debates and criticisms in our publications – natural activities between revolutionary groups.
Our divergences with Combate are certainly substantial. That is no reason to pass over them in silence or to be content to simply exchange ‘information’, but, on the contrary, it is the duty of any revolutionary group to discuss and openly confront these divergences. This is a condition for managing to clarify these divergences and eventually to overcome them.
It was with these concerns and while a comrade from Combate was with us that we had the bewildering surprise of receiving a letter from Combate on 9 September, laconically informing us of the decision to suspend selling ICC publications in the Combate bookshops. Our reply, published in the International Review (no. 8), was a vehement protest against such a decision which we described quite rightly as “aberrant”. We demanded an explanation in that letter and demanded that Combate withdraw its decision.
We are satisfied to have received now both the explanations and rectification which we demanded and will let pass the ironic comments accompanying them. The healthy relations which should exist between militant groups of the class are for us an extremely serious problem. We intend to remain firmly resolute and alert to defending these relations in order to root out the perverted customs which Stalinism introduced into the life of the class for the past decades.
We will keep in mind the suggestion to republish material from Combate on concrete struggles. We must, however, assert that we have significant differences with Combate on what the task of the revolutionary press should be. For Combate the press is essentially a vehicle for information and description, for us it is an instrument of intervention and political orientation.
The question is not a difference between workers in struggle and ‘professors’, but between immediatists who are content to ‘inform’ and political groups who say who they are, and who defend a revolutionary orientation within the class and in its struggles.
Also, we hope to see Combate defend a clearer orientation in its publications by openly confronting the positions of other political currents.
Your interpretations are quite remarkable and it’s a great pleasure to read them, but, alas, the facts are much more prosaic and banal. It’s always better to check up on the facts before hurling down the gauntlet.
The facts: a comrade who misunderstood a decision taken at a meeting; other comrades who don’t read letters once they have been written. The decision: the bookshop in Oporto decided that it would no longer look after the distribution of your publications in the bookshops of Oporto, Lisbon and Coimbra, because of commercial problems. This has nothing to do with the selling of your publications in our bookshops. Moreover, the bookshop in Lisbon has always displayed your publications, and will continue to do so.
We thank you for your concern for us, which has twice led you to consider Combate’s ideas sufficiently interesting to figure as the subject of your critiques in the pages of your publications. We would like to point out, however, that in the pages of Combate you will find a lot of information provided directly by workers from concrete struggles -- banal, of course, but such things make up the small world the working class lives in while it waits for the professors to change society. Perhaps some of your readers would like to see some of this material in your publications?
The Combate Collective
Edicoes - Livraria,
Lisbon, 5 January 1977.