One year ago, the Portuguese people woke up, lifted our heads to resist.
At the call of three young precarious people, 500,000 indignant citizens demonstrated in the streets across the country, and proposed alternatives to the authoritarian austerity of socialist and right-wing governments who were at one with the European leaders and the IMF.
This March 12, 2012, the popular movement continues the struggle, after a year in which we have mobilised, fought, held general strikes, and proposed a law against job insecurity and a citizens’ audit of public debt.
The people’s resistance is strong! The citizens’ revolution is being built in Portugal amd a new phase begins on 12 March 2012 and March 22 with a general strike called by unions, associations and social movements.
We, the unemployed, ‘five-hundred-euro-ists’* and other poorly paid slaves disguised on sub-contracts, temporary contracts, false self-employed, intermittent workers, trainees, interns, student-workers, precarious, transferred, fired, homeless, emigrants, immigrants, exiled, isolated, retired, excluded, censored, recently and long-term poor: every day, we face serious limitations on our dignity and freedom.
One year ago, March 12, 2011, in Portugal and abroad, we came out on the streets in rebellion but with hope, worried but determined to build a better future. Attacked and indignant, but with proposals: there were more than 500,000 of us.
This was the day when we said: We are Democracy.
With the determination to actively exercise our rights, we brought thousands of proposals and concrete ideas on how to build a new and better society to parliament that each and everyone of us had expressed at the demonstration.
We launched the seed of civic participation. We have shown that it is possible that we can decide and do. We know we progress over every previous generation every time we cooperate.
Since that day, new social dynamics have created new movements, new meetings of minds, hopes and projects, a draft Law Against Precarity drawn up by citizens, a citizen’s Audit of Public Debt, protest, popular assemblies, direct actions; these are just some examples throughout the past year of the vitality of a society that participates in a responsible and informed way influencing a process of political and social change.
March 12 will always be a conquest, because people became aware of their power.
We want to be heard. We have shown that “we did not want to go there” and, a year later, everything is worse.
The rulers do not listen to us. We have never worked so hard, in such a flexible way, in such a precarious manner.
We were sold the false promise that if we had less protection at work, there would be more jobs for everyone.
Today, the unemployment rate is the highest post April 25, 1974. In schools, children are hungry. Abandoned, thousands of elderly people must choose between medicine or food. From north to south businesses, factories and shops close, throwing thousands of people out of work. Younger people, students and the recently laid off are encouraged to emigrate in a clear admission of impotence and incompetence by government.
Upon the arrival of undemocratic troika, we have suffered from an austerity plan asphyxiates us.
In Portugal these measures require more [sacrifices] from poor people than the rich. The distribution of wealth is the most unequal in all the OECD. And the most vulnerable are being forced to foot the bill for corruption and the local, regional and international mafia. An economic dictatorship is being installed that is destroying what’s left of the social pact inaugurated on April 25, 1974.
The citizens are democracy
On 12 March 2012, we reaffirm that we the citizens are Democracy. That the democratic state is the people, not markets. That the economy exists to serve the people, not the IMF and other creditors.
States exist because we confer on them the duty to provide for basic rights like education, health, justice, security, movement, protection of natural resources and welfare for everyone and especially the most disadvantaged. For these reasons, for there to be social justice, so that the country develops in a sustainable way, we pay taxes. Not to
sustain international debt at odious interest rates.
The Portuguese State has to be the guarantor of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution and International Law.
If the taxes we pay, the fruit of our work, no longer serve to ensure the rights, freedoms and guarantees, why are we paying taxes?
We reaffirm the ideas, hope and the will to rebuild our community, our streets, our villages, our neighbourhoods, our cities, our country, our continent, our world.
We reject the proto-fascist state
We do not accept the imposition of a proto-fascist state that justifies itself through the requirement to pay, at any price, a debt. We will not allow the criminalization of social movements and the manipulation of the security forces to cause disorder and instil fear in the population.
We will not abdicate the right to demonstrate, to contradict and to a plurality of opinions. We do not believe in the inevitable, in the ‘pensee unique’ (single thought) nor in the moralising policies of sacrifice.
Because democracy is what we make of it.
We will, together, from the bottom up, rebuild the state and again to defend the ideals of justice, equality, freedom and cooperation that governments have long since ceased to practice.
March 12 belongs to everyone. It is up to each and every one of us.
That March 13 is too!
* reference to the (monthly) poverty wages of Portugal’s precariat