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Portuguese workers win the promise of a general strike
Tens of thousands of Portuguese workers, from both public and private sectors, demonstrated on the streets of the main cities of Lisbon and Porto - 50,000 people in the capital, and 20,000 in Porto.
Socialismo Revolucionário, (CWI in Portugal) reporters
A number of work stoppages also occurred, especially in healthcare, education, social services, public transport and prominent metal, automobile and construction companies.
The scale of the government attacks are echoing the warning of a "bloodbath budget" described by Socialismo Revolucionário in its material distributed during the demo in Lisbon. They include 5% cuts in public sector wages, freezing of all pensions, a new 2% increase in VAT to 23%, cuts in family allowances and much more.
Yet the most hard-line sections of the capitalist commentators still think the minority Socialist Party (PS) government is too timid in the pace and the depth of its austerity measures.
But most of the capitalists in Portugal fear that such a tough approach is going to provoke massive social explosions. This has been the background to the political crisis of recent weeks.
The PS government has been forced to get at least the tacit approval of the Socialist Democratic Party (PSD) to pass the 2011 budget in the parliament. The leadership of the PSD has been reluctant to accept the idea of raising taxes, advocated by the PS, arguing for more savage cuts in public spending. Whatever the precise content of the next budget, workers and youth need to prepare seriously for a fightback.
For people who attended the monumental 300,000-strong demo in the capital four months ago, the biggest trade union demonstration in Portugal since the revolution, questions arise about the lower attendance on 29 September.
This didn't reflect the underlying anger throughout society. Many workers have expected bolder initiatives from the trade union leaders. Indeed, the question of a general strike has been implicitly posed for months.
The union leaders should have called a general strike on the same day as the Spanish general strike. But the CGTP (Portuguese TUC) vaguely named a "great day of action". The Portuguese Communist Party and the Left Bloc hardly used their influential position to mobilise people or publicise the protests.
Pressure comes to bear
But after the demo, Carvalho da Silva (CGTP general secretary) spoke of the need for "a much stronger struggle, ultimately of a general character". And following a meeting of the national committee of the CGTP, a general strike has finally been called for 24 November.
The pressure from the membership is such that even the UGT, the PS-influenced trade union, the least combative, is considering joining the strike call. That would be the first time ever that the UGT has called a general strike! Trade union and left activists must now make sure that this general strike is not just a 'one-off' but the start of a sustainable fight back, built democratically from below.
Mass public meetings and rallies need to be organised in workplaces, schools and communities, not only to mobilise the mass of working people into the battle, but also to allow everyone to participate democratically in the organisation of the struggle.
In The Socialist 6 October 2010:
Defend Child Benefits
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party workplace news
Health and Safety
Europe: fighting the cuts
International socialist analysis
Socialist Party review