Portugal’s Left must seize the moment offered by an escalating social struggle and unite around a radical platform of change, argues Left Bloc’s Jorge Costa
Saturday’s massive demonstrations across Portugal have changed the immediate future of social struggle in our country.
Those who want to avenge the Carnation Revolution of April 25 1974 now know, after the millions who marched on September 15 and March 2, that large scale popular mobilization is not an isolated phenomenon or an occasional cry of the soul. It is the expression of concrete social struggle, a permanent fact of the national situation, of a majority that is speaking out against the cuts that are crushing our society.
The immediate demand of this social mobilization is the overthrow of the government. The motion of popular censure presented by hundreds of thousands in central Lisbon’s Terreiro do Paço could be the movement’s manifesto. In the coming days the truth will be known of new cuts, hidden until the demonstration by the Troika and the government. Over the coming weeks, we should aggregate the forces that gathered on March 2 across the Portuguese territory in a decentralized and open fashion. In each city square, in each corner of Portugal, people should come together again, learn and inform, gather support. And continue to popularize the popular motion of censure to banish this government.
The Troika wants a further €4 billion in austerity measures that will cut the welfare state to the bone. However, resistance to this attack on March 2 was unparalleled. A resistance made of protest “tides” in education and health sectors, of pensioners, each preparing in workplaces and the public services, in associations and union branches, coming together as a unitary force of professionals and service users, trade unionists and movement activists, workers and retired, and citizens who are most affected by austerity.
On the eve of bitter labour struggles, these initiatives show a broad signal of willingness to create a united political mobilization in support of public schools, public health service and welfare. The struggles promise to intensify.
Moment of truth
The people who form part of this mass movement require anti-memorandum forces to develop a common response and to take concrete steps for a shared political alternative. First, the Left Bloc and the Portuguese Communist Party should demand new elections and together seek a leftist government to break with the Troika. But this unity should not stop at dialogue between the anti-Troika parties. Rather, the design of a leftist government will be as broad as the programme it promotes is clear.
From the Democratic Congress of Alternatives* to the Citizen’s Debt Audit, there are hundreds of opinions and demands that must be central in shaping a political alternative. It is among the many many voices of the people who have ‘occupied’ our cities that the project will draw strength. And among these voices are many socialists who refuse to accept the watered down austerity programme [pursued by the Socialist leadership]. They are those who recognize the need for debt renegotiation and a complete change in policies for the real economy. Unity on the Left will shred the [Troika bail out] Memorandum.
Our struggle is international
The extent of popular mobilization in Portugal is an example for the rest of Europe. By its scale and the clarity of his cry, inspired by the 1974 revolution. Moreover, violent and unstable governments are devastating the entire European periphery. In Spain, only a week before March 2, hundreds of thousands descended on the streets with their own ‘citizens’ tide’ flooding more than 80 cities. Building an international agenda against the dictatorship of debt is within the each of people who are rising today.
It’s in the heat of these urgent tasks that the Left must now act.
Translation/edit by Revolting Europe.
* The Democratic Congress of Alternatives was launched by a group of social and political agents, including many from the trade unions, activists of social movements, with members of the Communist Party, MPs of the Left Bloc and of the Socialist Party, this initiative has a clear starting point and an ambitious goal. The starting point that brings together those that subscribed the call for the congress is the rejection of the Memorandum with the Troika (signed by the parties of the Right and the Socialist Party), responsible for the policies of austerity and impoverishment. The goal is to demonstrate that there are concrete and credible alternatives to the political programme of the Troika and to the dictate of debt service. The congress aims at creating a process of rapprochement and search for common denominators within the social arena that opposes these policies. The initiative has already held meetings all over the country, with the main themes of discussion being: how to terminate the Memorandum, how to give work the dignity it deserves, what public policy for the welfare state to fight against discrimination, which place for Portugal in the world and how to build a European alternative. Transform