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Portuguese workers under attack from Euro banks, IMF

Published Apr 24, 2011 9:34 PM

Emergency street meeting in Lisbon, April 9,
confronts IMF and EU challenge.
Photo: PCP

The Portuguese government has accepted orders from the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to impose austerity on that country’s workers. Some Portuguese leftists have said this would turn the country into a semi-colony of the big European powers, especially France and Germany.

In response to this frontal attack on Portuguese sovereignty and especially on its working class, the Portuguese Communist Party and other left forces have begun to mobilize resistance. The first measures of the extent of the resistance will be seen in two upcoming mass demonstrations — one on April 25 to celebrate the 1974 revolution that overthrew the fascist regime and one on May Day to celebrate the working-class holiday.

Given the assault on the workers, these traditional mobilizations of the working class may go beyond the routine and serve as a springboard for further mobilization and struggle. The unions have organized several general strikes in the past few years as living conditions deteriorated, with constant 10 percent unemployment and cutbacks to education, health care and pensions. The last general strike in November of 3 million workers was the most successful workers’ action since the period following the 1974 revolution.

There are also national elections scheduled for June 5. In them, the three major pro-capitalist parties — the rightist Conservatives and Social Democrats and the “Socialist” Party that led the last government — all bear responsibility for accepting the demands of the European Union and the IMF. The three have their differences, but German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble pushed them to unite behind an austerity package or lose the possibility of an EU-backed loan. (Bloomberg, April 9)

The PCP, which has a strong base in the working class, opposed the capitulation in Parliament. So did the Left Bloc, a relatively new party that has vacillated between opposing the Socialist Party’s positions and joining them. While the electoral arena isn’t the most favorable for the working class, it provided an opportunity to raise alternatives to the pro-bank, pro-IMF program.

In a speech before an emergency meeting of activists on April 9 in Lisbon, PCP General Secretary Jerónimo de Sousa said that “there are alternatives,” including “immediate renegotiation of public debt regarding time limits, interest rates or even amounts.” When there is a large debt, “the debtor has a problem but so do the creditors.” De Sousa pointed out that the examples of Greece and Ireland show that the IMF’s solution only worsens economic and social problems without solving financial problems or ending speculation. (Avante, PCP weekly newspaper, April 14)