Events in Portugal since I wrote my original letter have moved on. The deal that the Left Block signed with the Communist Party and the Socialist Party was not to enter a governing coalition but for its deputies support a Socialist minority government led by Antonio Costa that pledges will "turn the page on austerity".
Even though this deal has been signed and the "left" parties have a majority in parliament a rightwing conservative caretaker government remains in power. The President Anibal Cavaco Silva is putting pressure on Costa and the Socialists to repudiate the agreements signed with the Left Block and CP or water down the anti austerity measures and promise to repeal anti worker legislation the SP stood on. It seems unlike Martin, Silva is sure a Costa government dependent on Left wing votes would not simply be another species of "neo liberal" government.
Martin asks me if "With enough street agitation, it could become a workers' government?". Obviously I do not think that. Portugal is not in a pre revolutionary situation and none of the parties in the potential governing block including the Left Block want to go beyond anti austerity reformism.
However such a government could provide much more favourable conditions for a working class to make real advances in power and confidence. The Portuguese working class has being showing a increase in combativity and assertiveness. The result of the recent election is part of that. It’s a clear signal that the majority of Portuguese workers want an end to austerity and reversal of the anti worker legislation the PSD had brought in. The failure to form a anti austerity government against Silva's machinations will do nothing to advance working class confidence.
Martin is right is to point out the danger any kind of peace treaty between the left in the left block and a Socialist Party government. The history of other "Parties of the European" left is not encouraging on. However it does not seem that is what the Left Block has signed and there refusal to take roles in the government even though these were offered is a good sign.
The method revolutionary socialists in Portugal should adopt is the one developed during the first four congresses of the 3rd International and re-iterated by Trotsky once in exile - the United Front. To "join with all workers belonging to other parties and groups and all unaligned workers in a common struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie". Its pretty clear that the immediate struggle to form an anti austerity government against ruling class opposition even on the weak lines of Costa's programme is in the immediate interests of the Portuguese and European working class. For the Revolutionary Socialists in the Left Block at this point to argue for a course of action that will endanger the fulfilment working class's sincere wish for a government alleviating austerity would be wrong. For revolutionaries to do this on the hope the Left Block may pick up votes in any future election is a sectarian dereliction of their historical duty.