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Portugal: Between social drama and popular offensive

Jorge Costa, MP, Portugal’s Bloco de Esquerda, interviewed ahead of the party’s Congress, 10-11 November, 2012

The Bloco Congress will be an opportunity to take stock of a year of intervention of the Troika in Portugal. We live in a Greek scenario: a recession with uncontrolled deficits in the public accounts, record unemployment, serial corporate bankruptcies, public services threatened, mass migration, shops are closing … the works!

Attacks on labour law and social protection, with overtime paid are no longer as before, are an important part of events over the past year.

The central question of our Congress will be: how do we envisage an alternative policy? Our belief is that this can only be achieved by breaking with the memorandum that has transferred the wealth of Portuguese workers into the pockets of the large German private banks, which promotes international finance speculating on the backs of nation states. To break with the policies of the Troika, we need a policy of economic alternatives. The cancellation of a part of the public debt, especially the illegitimate part if it, that is, the abusive payments by the Portuguese State to private banks, is essential.

The snowball effect of these loans that are made in order to take other loans make governments dependent on the world of finance. This raises the  issue of public control of the banking system. Even in this time of crisis, private banks have preferred to speculative with government debt, borrowing at record levels from the ECB (at 1%) to lend at high rates (5 or 6%) to governments, instead of financing the real economy, lending to families.

That is why we must take control of banking instruments. We also need a tax reform to pay those who have reduced the country to the current situation, including large [corporate] groups that are tax-exempt. These are the outlines of the economic proposals of the Left Bloc.

The social situation has changed. What is striking is that we are entering a phase of strong social mobilization. What is emerging is citizens’ movements, mostly small groups that are having a real popular impact. Their motto is to “beat up” the troika. These spontaneous movements have a strong political profile, rejecting austerity and demanding the fall of the government. Their relationship with the trade union movement is reflected by a joint call for a general strike on November 14. This link is historical. And even that call for a general strike, which we support, is launched on the same day in Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Malta. This is the beginning of a European response to the attacks of the troika.

The Bloco is very close to this social movement. Our policy proposals echo the claims that emerge from this mobilisation of the citizen and trade union movements. Moreover, out membership and the party is strengthening. The Bloco Congress takes place in a context of a dramatic social situation but also a novel popular offensive. The coalition government between the two parties on the right has ended. It will not last until the next national elections in 2015. Out in front, the Socialist Party is in a strong but contradictory position. On the one hand, the Socialists formally oppose the government, and did not vote for the budget, on the other, they approve austerity and the memorandum.

Moreover, the Troika took control of the Portuguese economy under a socialist government. Our relations with this social democracy that has become social liberal are difficult and strained.

But we move forward. After garnering 6% in national elections last June, we are credited with 10-11% [in the polls] today. ‘

Interview by Clementine Autain.  Published in the e-monthly regards.fr:

Translation by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope


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