Portugal: Make the rich pay for the crisis

Workers need a fighting programme to resist capitalist crisis

In recent weeks, we have witnessed a sequence of events that show again the character of the capitalist ‘Socialist Party’ (PS) government. The "determination" and "non-conformism" of José Sócrates and his team, has been rubbished, with successive measures to save the bankers and big business from the capitalist crisis, which began in the United States and has spread throughout the world like wildfire. In mid-October, the PS parliamentary group approved state guarantees worth 20 billion euros to halt the banking crisis.

After several senior bank executives and economists warned about the debts owed by Portuguese banks, the government wanted to give the impression that everything was going well. But the harsh reality combined with their desire to represent politically the interests of big business, took them to use taxpayers’ money to bail out major companies and shareholders.

Shortly afterwards, they announced a package of over 4 billion euros was being made available to banks to resolve problems arising from a lack of liquidity in the system. Again, this is money they said was nit there, when it was demanded in order to meet the basic needs of workers, and is now suddenly available in truckloads for the rich.

This is outrageous and shows clearly the class interests this government serves and will aid in smashing illusions held by the thousands of workers who voted in the PS to end the rule of the right

A "hole" of €700 million, and the fact that the bank was on the verge of being unable to pay out to their depositors prompted the government to "nationalise" the BNP (Portugese National Bank).

But the decree of nationalisation of the BNP had included a proposal through which the government sought to wrest permission to carry out the "nationalisation" without the scrutiny of Parliament. The proposal was passed in parliament, with the abstention of Alegre

Coming into an election year, the PS government remains firm in its intention to continue with privatisations and to ensure that big business feels the lightest possible impact from the crisis that rages internationally.

Meanwhile, according to the daily Correio dea Manhã; despite the crisis, banks continue to earn €3.3 million per day. But the government continues to impose wage cuts, pitiful pensions causing misery for the mass of Portuguese people, who suffer unemployment, scarcity and languish in debt.

In a cynical manouvre, the government convened a dialogue to announce an increase in the National Minimum Wage to €450. However, this is a commitment which has been promised for years. The employers took the opportunity use blackmail, demanding more subsidies and tax rebates, that is, the use of taxpayers’ to ensure more profits for them.

Unfortunately, the CGTP continues to participate in this farce that is called "Dialogue" (a social ‘partnership’ process). It seems difficult for the executive leadership of the CGTP to realize that a national minimum wage of €450 no longer corresponds to the needs of workers? For the millionaires, there are millions; for the millions of workers, pennies. It is time to say enough is enough!!

It is urgent that the workers’ movement and Trade Unions demand:

  • The perpetrators of the economic crimes in the banking and financial system must be tried and sentenced!
  • No compensation should be paid to directors and shareholders, with the exception of small shareholders if that proves necessary.
  • Nationalisations should be extended to the entire banking and insurance sector and other key sectors of the economy, under control and management of workers in order to channel the funds accumulated to finance production and services which are socially necessary and useful, such as health, education and social security.
  • Companies at risk of bankruptcy should be nationalized and brought under the control and management of workers.
  • An end to ‘temporary work’, and an incorporation of those workers into socially useful industries.

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November 2008