Portugal

The voting down of the state budget indicates a qualitative change in the political situation in Portugal. An early election next year will happen in a political context very different from that of the previous period. After six years of collaboration between the Communist Party (PCP) and the Left Bloc (BE) with the Socialist Party (PS) government, the “geringonça” (“contraption” - the name by which the unlikely deal struck between the three parties became known) is dead.

Otelo Nuno Romão Saraiva de Carvalho died last month. As a young army major, Otelo planned and coordinated the military coup of 25 April 1974 against the Estado Novo dictatorship in Portugal, despite the fact that the army had previously been one of its main pillars of support. What Otelo could not foresee was that the masses would surge onto the stage of history through the breach that the 25 April coup created at the very core of the bourgeois state. This date therefore also marked the beginning of the Portuguese Revolution.

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 in the town of Odemira, which led to a lockdown being imposed upon two local parishes, has exposed a festering wound on Portugal’s social fabric. The outbreak has brought to light conditions of modern slavery, involving human trafficking and the exploitation of migrant workers, living under extremely precarious conditions, which contributed to the outbreak of the disease.

The apparent social peace in Portugal in recent years – without major uprisings or noteworthy social turmoil – hides a much more complex and bitter reality beneath its fragile surface. Whilst the mainstream media, nationally and internationally, hailed the economic recovery after Portugal’s debt crisis as a new dawn, the scars left in society by a decade of austerity, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, have created the potential for future revolutionary developments.

The Portuguese presidential election saw a collapse of the left vote. This was due to a number of factors. On the one hand, there was the tacit support given to the centre-right candidate, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, from the right wing of the Socialist Party (PS). On the other, the candidates themselves competed knowing that they would not win. This was the case with Marisa Matias, the candidate for the Left Bloc (BE), who recognised the victory in the first round by Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, and for that reason applied with the sole “mission” of “defeating fascism.” 

On 24 January, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the independent Portuguese presidential candidate, was re-elected in a landslide victory, with 61 percent of the vote. Whilst he was the centre-right candidate, he had the tacit support of the ruling Socialist Party. The election has attracted some interest internationally because of the fact that Chega, the far-right party, won 12 percent of the vote, up from around 1 percent in the parliamentary elections of 2019. The real winner in these elections, however, was not Marcelo, but ‘none of the above’.

The Portuguese Marxists of Colectivo Marxista de Lisboa have put out this call for a general strike until such time that workers’ health can be protected, key levers of the economy are democratically managed to ensure efficiency, and guarantees are put in place to ensure workers’ wages and democratic rights are not undermined. This call has resulted in a big response on social media, showing the developing class consciousness and fighting spirit of the Portuguese working class in the teeth of this pandemic.

The coronavirus crisis has shattered the lauded Portuguese "boom", which is based primarily on the now-crippled tourism industry, and exposed the fragility of this backward European economy. Portuguese workers must follow the example of their class brothers and sisters in Italy and Spain, who have met the bosses' attempts to make them choose between health and pay, with strikes and class struggle!

Note: The situation in Portugal has moved on quickly since this article was written. Confirmed COVID-19 cases have almost tripled since the weekend and the country has experienced its first deaths. The President is set to declare a state of emergency which will involve

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Two weeks after the parliamentary elections, the new Portuguese government of the PS (Socialist Party) will officially take office on 23 October. This much is certain – what is not so clear is which of the PS’s potential “allies” (Bloco de Esquerda; the Communist Party and the Greens; the petty-bourgeois environmentalist party PAN; and the smaller left-reformist “eco-socialist” party LIVRE) will support this government – and to what extent.

We are four years on from the historic formation of an apparently left government in Portugal, in which the Socialist Party (PS) has relied on the support of the Bloco de Esquerda (BE) and the Communist Party (PCP) to pass measures through parliament. Between them, the three parties have commanded a considerable majority in parliament, but the PS government would have fallen without the support of the parties to its left.

The Times recently published a survey of 885 property investors, undertaken by PwC and the Urban Land Institute, which placed Lisbon as the number one European hotspot for investment in 2019. The city had jumped up from eleventh place in the same survey the previous year.

On Thursday 25 April, celebrations took place all over Portugal to mark the 45th anniversary of the day the hated Estado Novo dictatorship was felled. In Lisbon, around 20,000 people marched in the annual parade of workers’ and youth organisations, while thousands more lined the pavements of Avenida da Liberdade to join in the festivities. We publish here a report of the event by our Portuguese comrades, along with the text of pamphlet they produced for the occasion. You can find more detailed analyses of the revolution here and ...

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