PORTUGAL, March 31 — In recent months here a group of fifteen high school students, aware of the ongoing national crisis in Portugal, have begun weekly meetings to discuss various political and economic issues. We review the consequences of capitalist society, our thoughts on solutions, as well as organize different awareness events.
After being introduced to CHALLENGE the group was excited to know their fight was happening all over the world and that it was supported by many people. The students have read and discussed many of the articles, integrating them with their usual topics of discussion. They’ve begun to sneak CHALLENGE into school and pass them out to other students who are curious about the fight against capitalism.
It was also discussed that the country’s Prime Minister, José Socrates (representative of the Socialist Party), was re-elected for a second five-year term on the promise that he would no longer raise taxes. It’s a promise that hardly seems plausible due to the country’s excessive external deficit.
Can’t Afford More Than One Meal A Day
One year into his term and three “Stability and Growth Plans” (SGP) later, the country is paying 23% Value Added Tax (VAT). Most families are running on 400 euros (approximately U.S. $562) a month; retirement funds are as low as 200 euros (approximately U.S. $ 281.4) a month; the welfare funds have been cut and social services have rejected help for most families. This makes them unable to afford more than one meal a day.
The official unemployment rate is at 9.3%, making it one of the four European countries with the most unemployment. All the while the Prime Minister and his board of Ministers are being paid 4,000 euros (approximately U.S. $5,657) a month.
So it was no surprise when the Left Bloc (BE), supported by the Portuguese “Communist” Party (PCP), announced they were promoting a Censorship Motion based on evidence that the current legislative government was incompetent in creating quality living for the people. Although the Censorship Motion would probably be vetoed due to the “right” parties’ opposition, people are looking for the dismissal of the government.
However the motion never went to a vote because the Prime Minister announced that if his next “Stability and Growth Plan” (SGP IV) didn’t pass in Parliament, he would resign. The plan aimed to increase taxes again and reduce more social benefits, creating economic austerity in order to lower the external deficit.
On March 23, the plan was presented in Parliament and was voted down by every single opposition party. Moments later the Prime Minister resigned. New elections are set for the end of May. Until then the Portuguese political crisis has been a factor in lowering the value of the Euro and is now more likely than ever to have the International Monetary Fund intervene in Portugal’s economy.
Amid such a political crisis, infuriating people with awful living conditions, the “Communist” party is seen as the left party, but they are far from revolutionary. They only propose reforms that just continue to support the capitalist system. The removal of the Prime Minister might bring a lot of smiles to working people here, but it is far from the solution. The bosses have always been able to get rid of their puppets while still maintaining capitalism. The struggle is to organize and recruit millions to fight for a communist world, free of exploitation.
Portugal has a history of revolutionary movements that were created and led by students. It’s no surprise then, that it is the students who are now taking the fight into their hands and organizing. With clearer knowledge of the fight between classes around the world, as well as these discussions that are open to anyone who wants to join, we are one step closer to organizing and recruiting for the fight against the capitalist system and exploitation.