Portugal: NATO summit

30,000 protest against imperialism and war in the streets of Lisbon

This weekend, a big NATO summit took place in Lisbon. 7 years after the "coalition of the willing" gathered on Portuguese soil, to prepare the invasion of Iraq, Portugal welcomed once again an important military summit. The military alliance of Western imperialism came together to discuss their strategy for the coming ten years. Their primary objective is to prepare NATO to defend Western imperialist interests in a world of other emerging blocs.

NATO was founded after WWII as an Alliance "in defence of democracy", despite the fact that various dictatorships were among its founders, including the fascist Salazar dictatorship in Portugal. Its true purpose was the military defense of the external economic and geo-political interests of major capitalist powers against the encroaching "Red Menace", coming partially from the Soviet Union. For these purposes, NATO never hesitated to use brutal military force – and still do, as the war in Afghanistan shows once again.

Now that the Soviet Union is no longer the big threat, NATO has been searching for a new strategy for 20 years. The "war on terror" has served as a pretext to legitimise the continued existence of NATO’s military prowess, supporting interventions in the oil-rich Middle East. With the emergence of new economic powers, primarily China, it is now time for the alliance to discuss a new, adapted strategy.

NATO has always been an imperialist organisation. Its main purpose is to support western economic interests worldwide. Against the background of the economic crisis, capitalist contradictions are growing further. These are now reflected in increasing trade disputes, protectionism and currency wars. We should therefore not be surprised if Washington uses NATO as a military means of pressure in the "currency wars" of the next period, including with China.

Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Portugal) was one of the organisations that called for massive demonstration against the summit on Saturday. The demonstration, under the slogan "Peace Yes, Nato No", was supported by hundreds of organisations, including the trade unions, the Left Bloc and the Portuguese Communist Party.

On Saturday afternoon, over 30,000 young people, workers, activists and trade unionists took to the streets for this fighting demonstration. The issue of the NATO summit was linked by many delegations to the crisis of capitalism. Some banners read: "Stop NATO, the armed support for Capitalism", "Dismantle NATO, the armed wing of capitalism aimed at suppressing the rights of working people" or "Against war; capitalism and militarism are the causes, not the solution". The CWI delegation intervened in the demo with our latest paper, and a leaflet about NATO and the upcoming General Strike against the government, taking place next Wednesday.

The CWI firmly condems the provocative attitude of the police during the demonstration. For example, the police tried to block a contingent of PAGAN ("platform anti-Nato and anti-war") by isolating it with a double police cordon, in an obvious attempt to provoke violence from protestors that would have justified arrests and the criminalisation of the march. These provocations did not have much effect, as they were met with a militant but peaceful response. However, it is an example of the massive campaign which the government has sought to develop in recent weeks in order to criminalise the social movements. The government and the media tried to scare the demonstrators by predicting the supposed presence of 5,000 so-called “violent Black-blockers” – who never appeared at the demonstration – and raising serious threats of terrorist attacks. The government is trying to create a climate of fear against the growing anger of ordinary people against its policies, especially with the general strike next week in mind. This campaign can only be countered by the organisation and struggle of the working class.

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November 2010