Portugal’s people unite against austerity

Hundreds of thousands of Portuguese took to the streets March 2 to demand an end to the austerity programs imposed on the country by both the foreign “troika” — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — and the domestic troika, made up of the two rightist parties running the government, with the backing of the so-called Socialist Party.

This massive protest involved broad sectors of the population, with a big role played by youths, students and retired workers, all of whom have been harmed by the austerity cuts. More than 17 percent of the work force in Portugal is now officially unemployed. Pensions and wages have been cut, and more and more of the population has been thrown into misery each month.

The series of protests and general strikes have added up to the largest outpouring of the Portuguese people since the April 1974 revolution overthrew a decades-old fascist dictatorship. This one advocated throwing the government in the trash.

The March 2 protest follows by two weeks a major demonstration called by the main trade union confederation, the CGTP. To give an idea of what this means from the point of view of Portuguese working-class progressives, Workers World has translated the following editorial, published March 3 on the progressive website odiario.info.

The people united

“The demonstration of March 2 — the latest in a series of mass struggles of different sectors of the workers and communities [including] the tremendous Feb. 16 day of struggle called by the CGTP union confederation in 24 cities of the country — confirms the overwhelming popular rejection of the political program of the troikas and the total isolation of those currently carrying out this program.

“Many hundreds of thousands of Portuguese took to the streets to affirm that they refuse to any longer tolerate the theft of their rights, the brutal extortion of their wages and pensions, job insecurity and unemployment, the humiliating subordination of the national interests at the service of big finance capital and the condemnation of the country to dependence and misery in order to fill the coffers of the banks and pay the costs of their fraudulent transactions.

“With enormous outpourings in Lisbon and Oporto, these demonstrations took place in practically the entire country. For those who directly participated in them, and using Marxist terms to characterize them, they produced the undeniable image of a mobilization bringing together all the antimonopoly classes and strata of society, all those whom the rightist policies have for years now been punishing with growing aggressiveness.

“Today there was an overwhelming call for the resignation of the Passos/Portas government and rejection of the blunt and brutal ‘austerity’ imposed by the foreign troika and executed by the national troika.

“The people are united in this rejection, and it was with the songs of April [1974] and its slogans that they affirmed it. There is still a long road to travel. But when the people are as united regarding what they do want as they were today in relation to what they don’t want, they will once again be ready to take their own destiny into their hands.”