Portugal: the proletariat crushed between the capitalist crisis and the complicity of trade union and political opportunism
(«Proletarian»;Nr. 8; Spring 2012)
The capitalist crisis ravaging every country in the world has very grave consequences for the proletarians who witness their conditions of existence deteriorate rapidly as is required by the bourgeoisie and its undertakings that more than ever require the cheapest labor possible, approaching the level of mere survival. Thus not only the wage cuts now rampant in companies of various sectors, but also massive layoffs, cuts in basic social services, the rising price of basic services (water, electricity, etc.), and tax increases everywhere, form a grim tableau. But in places where the living conditions previously were already not very good or really bad compared to neighboring countries, the situation becomes more and more terrible for the workers as time passes and the requirements of the national and international bourgeoisie become increasingly harsh and difficult.
This is the case of Portugal, one of the most vulnerable economies in the euro area which historically has always lagged behind the major imperialist powers in the region and remained relatively marginalized from the process of economic development evident throughout the world, but above all, especially since 1996, in countries where it had been traditionally low. The country was hit hard by the current crisis as evidenced by final macroeconomic indicators. The Portuguese economy will decline 1.3% in 2011 (even though the level of GNP was already very low after two years of crisis) and it is expected that it will officially decline further by 0.6% in 2012 (the fall will undoubtedly be higher). According to forecasts by the Bank of Portugal itself, inflation for this year will be 2.8% against 1.4% last year. The crisis hit a country whose productive structure is marked by a strong predominance of the services sector, concentrated mainly in Lisbon and in Madeira, while the rest of the country saw declining agricultural production and a puny industrial sector.
But above and beyond the macroeconomic indicators with which the bourgeoisie intends to demonstrate the need for severe sacrifices to support the national economy, the statistics also show how the Portuguese proletariat is affected by the crisis: the unemployment rate in 2008, just before the crisis erupted, reached 8% of the workforce (which is around 5.5 million workers) rose sharply to over 13% (not to mention that the rate of active job-seekers fell slightly). As for government measures to revive the economy, that is to say the anti-working class offensive burgeoning there like everywhere else, the most important were probably those affecting the legal duration of the working day which can be increased by half an hour (which adds to the growing number of working days per year), the elimination of bonuses in the civil service, the increase in indirect taxes starting with the VAT (Value Added Tax: tax on goods and services).
Faced with a situation which objectively requires the working class to fight to defend themselves, the main union, the CGTP (General Confederation of Portuguese Workers), called for a general strike for November 25, the second in 15 years (the first having taken place just a few months ago). But in the same way that its trade union confreres in neighboring countries which likewise belong to this deadly family united by the bonds of the betrayal of the working class, the CGTP has demonstrated that under the leadership of opportunistic yellow unionism; strikes are not a means of proletarian struggle, but simply a safety valve to prevent the workers from launching the class struggle. A general strike limited to one day with a warning notice of one month (enough for the bourgeois class to prepare and ensure that this does not interfere with the course of business), and whose sole objective is the negotiation of the austerity measures by the government, cannot in fact have any other real purpose than to diminish proletarian pressure accumulated over a long period of time, so that it does not jeopardize social peace.
It is this pressure which resulted throughout the day in demonstrations of proletarian anger that threatened to disturb the “democratic right to protest” with which the CGTP meant to destroy the proletarian struggle: the pickets of the workers in the garbage collection sector which clashed with police to enforce the strike, night attacks against the headquarters of banks, and above all the clashes with police at the end of the events called by the unions and the “Indignant Movement” (it should be noted that these clashes are particularly significant in a country that is reputed to be among the most peaceful since the “Carnation Revolution” of the seventies), all this demonstrates the rise of workers’ anger caused by the continued deterioration of conditions life and work: the proletariat is inevitably led to direct confrontation with its enemies, despite the efforts of collaborationist unionism to bar its path of struggle. The CGTP did not hesitate to attack the workers who instinctively tended to move in that direction, as it did by denouncing the workers who had clashed with police on the pretext that it must be peaceful and orderly to negotiate with the bourgeoisie.
On the political terrain the forces of opportunism also played their role. The major “workers’” parties present in parliament are trying to divert the rising social tension towards objectives fully assimilated by the national democratic game.
Thus, the Left Bloc, an assemblage of small groups gathered together for electoral reasons, affirms in the resolution of its national Assembly, following the elections last June 5, that It’s only possible to counter the blackmail on bankruptcy which weighs down on wages and pensions by resolutely engaging in a policy of auditing and renegotiating the debt, this means that the struggle of the Portuguese proletariat should aim to reach a compromise with the so-called “troika”(the group of experts responsible for managing the intervention in Portugal on behalf of the IMF, the ECB and the EU) to decrease the weight of the public debt (that is to say the national debt); and thanks to a policy of putting pressure on the Socialist Party to counter its coming into line with the Right in office, which means thanks to common parliamentary action with the party which when in government approved European intervention. Parliamentary action is the privileged field of opportunism which seeks to bind the proletariat to the rules of democracy; used by the bourgeoisie pass anti-worker measures to bring the country out of the crisis, not in an authoritarian fashion, but voluntarily, democratically.
For its part, the Portuguese Communist Party in a document dated 20 November 2011, where it cynically claims to commemorate the birth of the Communist International and its own proletarian and revolutionary birth, multiplies the statements of intent which demonstrates once again that is the perfect ally of the bourgeoisie within the proletarian masses to maintain social order and divert discontent into nationalism and compromise: There are alternatives. With a patriotic policy (emphasis added by us) which has as its objectives economic development, higher living standards for workers and the people, the defence and promotion of the public interest and citizen rights, the effective support to microenterprises, small and medium enterprises and the defense and affirmation of sovereignty, a just Portugal, sovereign, and with a future (Is a new road to hope possible for Portugal?, intervention of Jeronimo Sousa, General Secretary of the PCP).
This simply means, according to the PCP, that the Portuguese proletariat has no other choice but to defend the country against foreign intervention in common with the national bourgeoisie, giving up its independent class interests (and of course its classist methods and means of struggle: not once in the text do we find the word strike, pickets, etc.) in the hope that its sacrifice will revive domestic production, allowing itself to be pilloried to satiate Portuguese capital’s all-devouring hunger for surplus value.
If it wants to successfully defend its class interests against the nationalism and the politics of class collaboration, the Portuguese proletariat, like its European brothers, beginning with its Spanish neighbors, has no alternative but to effect a rupture with the opportunistic leadership of the yellow unions leading the struggle onto the road of premeditated defeat, and to oppose this with its class weapons, which are the only effective ones: the strike without notice, pickets to stop production, the defense of demonstrations against assaults by the police, etc.
But it must go further, setting up classist organizations, independent of the interests of the national and international bourgeoisie, ensuring the continuity of its resistance struggle in time, and the solidarity of the proletarians of all productive sectors, employed or unemployed, immigrant and resident, men and women, young and old; organizations which in the early 20th century held the pride of the Portuguese proletariat, the most consequential of whom formed the Communist Party of Portugal, section of the Communist International, and its newspaper Avante! on whose pages were published the annals of the great class struggle on the Iberian peninsula.
This Communist Party, international and internationalist, will re-emerge as the supreme expression of the coherence of the proletarian class struggle in its program, policy and revolutionary tactics, fighting for the abolition of the world of wage labor and private property, for the world communist revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialist transformation of society.
For the resumption of the proletarian class struggle in Portugal, Europe and around the world!
For the intransigent defense of the interests of the proletariat!
For the struggle with class means and methods, independent of the interests of the national economy!
For the World Communist Party!
November 21, 2011
International Communist Party