From 15 September to 5 October: Protest and Alternatives in Portugal

On 15 September about a million people, all over Portugal (and even in front of Portuguese embassies in major European cities), walked out into the streets to protest against the Troika, austerity policies and the government implementing them.

The mobilization outnumbered the huge and amazing demonstration of a year and a half ago, on 12 March 2011. On this 15 September the call was clear in its confronting the root of the ongoing process of impoverishment: “To hell with the Troika, we want our lives back!” was the motto that brought together in an appeal about 40 personalities from social activism, from the precarious workers’ movement, from the cultural world, an appeal which hundreds of thousands of people joined through social networks.

In Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, as well as in other cities, this was considered the largest demonstration since the mythical parade of 1 May 1974, a few days after the revolution that had given freedom back to the Portuguese people. About one million took part in the demonstrations. This formidable mass of people gave expression to their protest in words and to their indignation by joining the revolt against austerity measures that have rapidly produced poverty, unemployment and degradation of public services as never seen before. Recent measures to increase workers’ contributions to social security and to reduce employers’ contributions are the largest direct transfer of wealth ever seen from labour to capital. These measures carried the revolt deep into the country, and even forced the leadership of the Socialist Party, although it had signed the Memorandum but abstained in the state budget of the right-wing government, to assume its opposition against this concrete decision and the next state budget. After the demonstration of one million people, the government coalition itself trembled with a significant loss of legitimacy and popular support, and breaks and divergences opened up in the government coalition and were publicly exposed.

In this context, where the fall of the government of the right-wing parties is demanded by impressive demonstrations in the streets, the initiative to organize the Democratic Congress of Alternatives gains even greater relevance and importance. Launched by a group of social and political agents, including many from the trade unions, activists of social movements, with members of the Communist Party, MPs of the Left Bloc and of the Socialist Party, this initiative has a clear starting point and an ambitious goal. The starting point that brings together those that subscribed the call for the congress is the rejection of the Memorandum with the Troika (signed by the parties of the Right and the Socialist Party), responsible for the policies of austerity and impoverishment. The goal is to demonstrate that there are concrete and credible alternatives to the political programme of the Troika and to the dictate of debt service. The congress aims at creating a process of rapprochement and search for common denominators within the social arena that opposes these policies. The initiative has already held meetings all over the country, with the main themes of discussion being: how to terminate the Memorandum, how to give work the dignity it deserves, what public policy for the welfare state to fight against discrimination, which place for Portugal in the world and how to build a European alternative.

On 5 October we celebrate the Republican Revolution of 1910. 2012 will be the last year that this day will be a holiday: the government has decided that, because of austerity, the holiday will cease to exist in 2013. This year, 5 October will be marked by the completion of a major congress where the alternatives to a bailout policy will be discussed and developed. And this is a key step to make indignation become a real alternative.