The People of Portugal Demand Their Spring Arrive Early
From across Portugal they descended on Lisbon. From four staging areas in Lisbon they descended on Terreiro do Paço (Palace Square) to convert it into, as the organizers put it, Terreiro do Povo (Square of the People). Their success in this objective can’t be denied:
The CGTP (union confederation aligned with the Communist Party) estimated the crowds at some 300,000 persons, a staggering turnout amounting to 3% of the country’s population. The response is a decisive one following months of dehumanizing austerity that demotes workers to mere levers to be further pressed with total disregard to the sustainability of heightened exploitation. For those who aren’t given a place in this country ruled by international creditors, they can always emigrate as prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho coldly suggested.
It has been a long, cold winter of austerity in Portugal. For its chief victims made homeless by the impoverishment legislated by the government, they have felt this chill with far more effect than most. All the while, people in Portugal can see what has happened to the Greeks who were first made to enter this laboratory of neoliberalism. One of the signs I saw carried in Lisbon was “The Greek recipe is ruins – fight the Troika government”. It is with good reason the Troika government in Portugal should be fought. The Greeks are desperate to escape with what social services and standard of living they have left, but the politicians and creditors still insist on more sacrifices, more layoffs, more wage cuts, more impoverishment.
It is then not without reason the people have filled streets and squares in Lisbon. It is known that 2012 will be a painful year. Unemployment stands at around 13% in Portugal. Why wait till the end of 2012, when it’s at 15%, 18%, maybe even higher, to begin the task of expelling the IMF and its agents of austerity? Why delay the spring and allow the winter of austerity to victimize an ever increasing number of persons? There is no reason to wait, but every reason to mobilize.
Before Saturday’s demonstration was complete, we were assured of another mobilization called by the CGTP for the 29th of this month. The same diverse crowds of workers, youths, pensioners, families, and students must again converge as they did in “Terreiro do Povo” and form the common resistance so imperative at this crucial moment. It is a common resistance that won’t tolerate politicians, creditors and bosses finding the next set of victims, nor is it a resistance that will abandon those already made victims.
But Portugal cannot completely thaw on its own. IMF, European Union officials and the Franco loving government in Madrid are already targeting labor laws to increase the already precarious state of Spanish workers. Italian workers are enduring the same assault. There’s risk is in each country in its own moment rising and failing to dislodge the forces of austerity. The Greeks have made several valiant but ultimately failed attempts to expel the Troika’s regime.
The same convergence across Portuguese society seen in Terreiro do Povo must also be replicated across the austerity afflicted people of Europe. The Portuguese have demanded their spring come early, and with extraordinary effort could secure its arrival, but it would be a short lived spring for Portugal if those in Madrid, Rome and Athens don’t reinforce it with springs of their own.
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I’m just going to post a few more videos out of the demonstration in Lisbon. The struggle continues when the people are on the streets!