U.S. threatens Portugal’s center-left government

Nov. 29 — Is he the U.S. envoy to Portugal or the pro-consul of the Empire? Ambassador Robert Sherman, speaking on Portugal’s Radio Renascença a week ago, warned the Portuguese people that the U.S. was “worried about” the new government. He asked if Portugal’s center-left government would stay loyal to NATO and meet the alliance’s growing demands.

If U.S. imperialism says it is “worried,” that’s a threat. That threat alone makes it important to examine what has been happening in Portugal.

For the last four years, while a center-right government was cutting pensions, eliminating medical care and diminishing education, the economy was stagnating. There was about a 14-percent official unemployment rate in March and a real unemployment rate — which takes into account the heavy emigration and part-time jobs — that was more like 29 percent. (Algarve News, March 26) These conditions led to an electoral debacle for the rightist coalition.

In the Oct. 4 election, the center-right coalition lost 12 percent of the vote and 25 seats. Now this rightist coalition, hated by the workers, could no longer form a majority.

The Socialist Party (PS) made some gains, but with 86 seats had not enough for a majority on its own. The Left Bloc (BE), whose program and structure is similar to Syriza’s in Greece, that is, left social democrat, doubled its vote and won 19 seats. The Portuguese Communist Party-Greens alliance, called the CDU, gained slightly and won 16 seats. If the three could agree on a coalition, they could guarantee a stable majority in the National Assembly.

In the weeks following the election, President Cavaco da Silva, a rightist, was violating the Constitution. He refused to invite the PS to try to form a government by making some agreement with the BE and PCP. Instead, he tried to keep the old regime in office.

Finally, the PCP made a motion to reject the minority rightist government. On Nov. 10, this motion won the vote in the National Assembly while thousands of workers demonstrated outside, mobilized by the CGP-IN union federation.

The PCP and BE are supporting the PS government from the outside. They are not going to participate as ministers. According to the deal, the PS will make no further attacks on the working class, and the coalition will attempt to reverse some austerity imposed earlier. The BE and PCP, who both oppose NATO, are not to make this opposition a condition for staying in the coalition.

There should be no illusions about the PS. This party was born in the revolutionary period of 1974-1975 and nurtured by U.S. and German imperialism in order to push the PCP out. For the 40 years since that period, the PS has alternated in office with the two main rightist parties, and lately has also imposed austerity.

So far, the only victory for the workers is that they ousted the center-right government. It is unlikely the PS-BE-PCP coalition, even if it can stay united in the Assembly, can make gains for workers through parliamentary means alone. It is possible, however, that left parties use their presence in the National Assembly to mobilize the class struggle on a mass basis in the streets, factories and ­campuses.

From 1974 to 1978, U.S. Ambassador Frank Carlucci acted exactly like a pro-consul of the Empire. He threatened NATO military intervention from the Atlantic, maneuvered with the rightist elements remaining in the Army and with the PS. His goal was to prevent a workers’ revolution and to keep the PCP out of the government.

So it is a reminder to all of us when the Marxist website odiario.info warns in an editorial that Sherman is “imitating” Carlucci. Washington is again threatening Portugal’s sovereignty. The working-class movement here has to be ready to protest and stop this intervention.