Portugal: The struggle continues, get the Troika out now!

For a general strike movement to bring down the government and kick out the Troika

One of the biggest attacks so far on the conditions of the working class in Portugal was announced on October 3 by Finance Minister, Vitor Gaspar, as the government drives on with its agenda, set to continue at all costs with the markets’ plan to make the workers’ pay for the capitalist crisis. The mass movement against austerity saw a first important, although partial and temporary, victory after the great demonstration of 15 September when the government was obliged to withdraw the “TSU” (a direct attack on workers’ wages in public and private sector). Since then, the working class and youth have shown, in a 3 week period of mass mobilizations, including at the Presidential palace on 21 September and the CGTP demo on 29 September, that they are determined to continue to struggle against further crippling austerity, and for the expulsion of the Troika.

29 September 2012, Lisbon

These mobilizations showed how the Portuguese people are reaching the limit of how much misery they are prepared to accept, and are prepared to resist the progressive destruction of their lives and living standards. However, they have so far not been able to succeed in bringing down the floundering coalition government, and decisively forcing back the policies of systematic robbery of the working people, to save the system of the parasites and speculators. There must now begin a widespread debate in the working class movement and the left about what strategy and programme are necessary to bring this about.

In the past week, the character of the government’s policies has been even further clarified. The measures of the 2013 budget are set to include a brutal increase in taxes, especially those on consumption and workers’ incomes, amounting to a total increase in taxation of 30%. On top of this, the government plans the biggest collective sacking in Portuguese history, with plans to sack 50% of all ’interim’ workers in the public sector (up to 50,000 people according to some newspapers). As an expression of the continuing political crisis and instability that the crisis has provoked, even Marques Mendes, former leader of the conservative PSD (the main government coalition partner) described these measures as “armed robbery”.

These austerity measures are so brutal that even the Troika itself questioned the size of the increase in taxes being imposed, even though they propose more sackings and public spending cuts to make up for it! Of course, even limited alternative measures, like cutting the privileges of the rich, the PPP schemes, or the bank bailouts would not be considered, by a government made up of those who benefit from such practices! It is being proved again and again that austerity only leads to further austerity, and worsens the economic recession, not resolving in any way the problems of the debt, the deficit, mass unemployment or the need for economic growth, but on the contrary making them worse. Even the IMF has admitted that it judged badly the impact of austerity policies, and that their impact on economic growth has been much worse than it anticipated.

As this reality is further confirmed, the struggles of the workers and youth must harden and intensify to prevent austerity further destroying our lives. The struggle must continue, following an elaborated plan of actions, escalating and intensifying and armed demanding real alternative policies. We must continue until the fall of this government of the markets and the Troika. And fight for the objective of a government of the workers for the workers.

The next mobilizations, such as the march of the unemployed which arrives in Lisbon on 13 October, with another demonstration and concert against austerity on the same day, the demonstration at parliament on 15 October, need to be used as much as possible to build for a massive general strike on 14 November, as well as campaigning for subsequent actions as part of a sustained plan of action.

We think it is a positive sign the Communist Party and Left Bloc showing a willingness to come together in the struggle against austerity, having cooperated in attempts to bring forward “motions of censure” in the parliament to bring the coalition government down. This must now be built on, in the direction of the formation of a united front of these parties with the trade union and social movements to present the growing struggles with a real alternative of a left government. We argue that such a united front would need to defend a programme outlining the policies necessary for the building of an alternative democratic socialist society – such as the rejection of the payment of the debt and the nationalisation under democratic control and management of the banks and key pillars of the economy. This could be the basis for the building of a real alternative, rejecting the dictatorship of the markets and organising an economy which is planned on the basis of the needs of the workers and poor.

Such a movement must also be built on a local level, through assemblies in communities and in workplaces. The general strike on 14 November [in Portugal] will take place in the context of massive radicalization and struggle throughout Europe, with general strikes on the cards at least in Spain and Greece. A coordinated general strike in these countries, supported by massive demonstrations in all of Europe’s capitals, would send a clear message to the ruling class, national governments, the EU bosses and IMF: that European workers are a united force in struggle against austerity. This would help to open the way for a struggle for a real alternative on a European level, a socialist Europe of the workers rather than the markets.

The last general strikes in Portugal had principally a character of protest strikes, with objective of showing the opposition of workers’ opposition to the measures taken by the government – at least from the main trade union leaders’ point of view. However, the problem is not just one of policies applied by different governments, but one of the capitalist system which is in place. The next general strikes must this take on a more clearly political character, and have the clear objective of bringing this government down. This would pose in a clear way the question of an alternative government, of the need for the working class and its organisations to govern in its interests. This is a struggle which should not end on 14 November, but which has a clear plan to go further. The adequate next step, following in the direction of Greece, is a coordinated general strike with other European countries, going towards a general strike of all of Europe.

Through this process, the working class can become conscious of the fact that it in reality holds the power, not only to bring down governments, but to build a new society based on the needs of the majority. A society infinitely more democratic, more human, without exploiters or exploited. Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Portugal) is working to build support for such revolutionary democratic socialist change in the struggles of today.

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October 2012