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Portugal: Government in disarray... Left must seize the opportunity
Goncalo Romeiro, Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI, Portugal)
The situation in Portugal is explosive. The decision of the Constitutional Court (CC) to declare four measures of the state budget illegal, amounting to a value of €1.3 billion, only confirmed what many had already said: it was an impossible budget to implement.
But, the government said it had to put it forward. The Troika demanded it. Portuguese capitalists demanded it. They didn't have a Plan B.
The government appears to be breaking down. The prime minister's right hand man and minister, Miguel Relvas, has resigned, and more ministers are bound to follow his example.
The finance minister, Vitor Gaspar, feeling the end of his 'reign' drawing near, declared what could be likened to a 'state lockout' by suspending spending in all departments until further notice.
This threatens every important public service with breakdown: schools without food, hospitals without medicine, etc.
Given all of these huge events, the response of the Left and the trade unions has been weak. Whereas the government 'screams', they 'whisper'.
Although they demand the fall of the government more loudly, they fail to give any answer whatsoever in terms of a concrete struggle to achieve this.
After more than one million people took to the streets on 2 March, in Portugal's biggest ever demonstration, showing the willingness of the working class and youth to fight back, the Left keep blocking the struggle and refuse to organise any mass protest or strike.
We've seen the military demonstrate their anger in the streets already in their thousands on repeated occasions.
They have also showed open solidarity with the people's protests, saying they are on their side and not the government's.
Sections of the police have also joined big demonstrations. The state machine is not stable. The government knows it doesn't have their clear support in an explosive social situation.
The mass protests and general strike at the end of last year, the 2 March demo, and now the CC's decision, has sent the government into its biggest crisis so far.
At first they said they would find an alternative only through cuts in spending but that was not enough to fill the gap.
Now they say they will bring forward measures that were deemed illegal, such as the taxing of unemployment and sickness benefits, only with slight changes.
They are also trying once again to reach a "wide consensus" with the Socialist Party (PS). This is a clear attempt to get a 'national salvation' government strong enough to attack the constitution itself, but the PS is reluctant, knowing it will mean a huge loss in popularity for the coming local and regional elections.
However, many of its leaders also point in the direction of 'consensus'. In reality, it is more a matter of time before such a broad right-wing coalition will be placed on the table, with or without elections.
The CC ruling has not been enough to stop the government and Troika coming back for more blood.
Demanding the resignation of the government and the expulsion of the Troika, as the leaders of the CGTP (trade union federation), Communist Party and Left Bloc do to their credit, is all very good.
But saying it isn't enough. Calling for a big protest every now and then isn't enough either. The government is determined to stay in power at all costs, and the president supports it.
To bring down the government we need to make it unable to rule. Only the struggle in the streets, workplaces, universities and communities will be able to turn these words into reality.
We need to replace the government with one of working people and youth, a plan that uses every mobilisation and concrete struggle to make the next one even stronger and wider.
After four 24-hour general strikes, that were unable to stop these policies, we need longer strike action that gives workers a perspective of how they can stop austerity.
Such a plan should start with a 48-hour general strike and be linked internationally like on 14 November 2012, (in Spain for example a general strike in education is taking place on 9 May).
Such a plan would also include big demonstrations, occupations and boycotts of the fiscal robbery imposed upon working people, which the government already says will become worse with the CC's decision.
This plan of struggle must continue until the government falls, the Troika leaves the country, and a workers' and young people's government replaces it, to implement policies in the interests of the majority. The government is at its weakest moment, give a strong enough push and it will fall.
The crisis is not a merely 'cyclical' crisis, but a structural crisis of capitalism, where the system's biggest contradictions are crudely exposed.
Capitalism is unable to solve its crisis without condemning millions of people to poverty. This means that a solution to the crises must challenge the capitalist system.
The trade union and social movements have to arm themselves with a clear alternative to capitalism, ie socialism.
In Portugal, we call on the Left, particularly the Communist Party (PCP) and the Left Bloc (BE), to form a United Front with the trade unions and the social movements to draw up such a plan of action and a minimum programme to break with capitalism.
This programme has first of all to declare that we can't pay a debt made by speculators, and that condemns an entire nation to poverty.
Nationalise the banking system under workers' and consumers' control and management, so that we can generate and deploy the funds necessary for a mass public investment plan to restore our devastated public services and create real and decent jobs for the 1.5 million unemployed.
Nationalise all the strategic sectors of the economy and run them democratically under workers' control so that the resources of the country that belong to everyone are not run in the interests of private profit, but on the real needs of society.
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