Socialist Worker

Portugal: cracks open in EU austerity plans

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2245

The Portuguese government collapsed last week as economic crisis and resistance to austerity continued to create casualties across Europe.

All five opposition parties voted against the minority Socialist Party government’s latest austerity programme.

The Labour-like party then resigned from office, triggering a general election and throwing the state into further chaos.

There is major speculation that Portugal will follow Greece and Ireland and have to be bailed out by the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund.

In return, Europe’s leaders will demand even deeper cuts to public spending.

The Socialists pushed through an austerity plan, with cuts in wages, pensions, services and benefits. Prime minister Jose Sócrates wanted to reduce Portugal’s public spending deficit from 9.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2009 to 4.6 percent this year.

Portugal has loyally followed the consensus of European governments—that spending cuts will deal with the crisis.

But, like Greece and Ireland, it its economy has continued to decline. Unemployment stands at 11.2 percent.

Chancellor George Osborne has sent the British economy down this rocky road with huge spending cuts. And Spain is the next country facing problems with speculation that its regional banks need 100 billion euros to continue.

Impact

The attacks in Portugal have seen serious resistance, with a powerful general strike by hundreds of thousands of workers in November and large protests.

It has even had an impact on Portugal’s Eurovision entry. The band Homens da Luta’s “A Luta é Alegria” (The Struggle is Joy) is a huge hit. They played at a “Desperate Generation” protest in Lisbon in March.

Its lyrics include, “There are plenty who’ll sell you the air itself/ Day or night, the struggle is joy/ And the people advance, it’s in the street shouting.”

The radical Left Bloc MPs voted against the austerity measures. Francisco Louçã, one of its leaders, said, “We need a left that has answers.

“Our vote of no confidence was in the name of the precarious youth and the long-term unemployed. It has an echo in Portuguese society and has mobilised so many people.”

The Bloc is putting forward an alternative economic programme to deal with the crisis.

This includes increasing taxes on the financial sector, nationalising the energy companies, a 35-hour week, an urban reform plan and changing the eurozone stability pact.

But the designs of the international ruling class will mean more misery for the country’s people if they are implemented.


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Article information

International
Tue 29 Mar 2011, 18:01 BST
Issue No. 2245
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