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A report on the Portuguese General Strike of November 24th

December 18, 2010

The following is a report by our Portuguese sister organisation on the one-day general strike that paralyzed Portugal on November 24, as Portuguese workers fight austerity measures being imposed by the Socialist Party government.

This is the first general strike in Portugal for the last 22 years and that alone should shed some light over the social situation in this country. In fact, class struggle in Portugal is quite low and the number of strikes has actually been falling for the past thirty years, despite the continuously worsening situation of the Portuguese working class. Unionisation rates tend to fall as well, as the two large Portuguese party-run Trade Unions serve more to appease and stall conflicts than to fight exploitation, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Portuguese society has gone trough considerable changes for the past half-century, going from a rapid industrialisation starting in the 1960’s, fueled mostly by the influx of foreign capital, from which a more combative and organized working-class would emerge, to an equally rapid de-industrialization, as cheaper sources of labor-force would be found in Eastern Europe and Asia. The Portuguese economy nowadays is dominated by small, inefficient service companies, where workers have become more isolated from one another, have less traditions of struggle, are generally on precarious terms, and are paid those miserable wages that make it possible for such companies to survive. The whole system has been in an acute state of crisis for the past 10 years and workers have been its first victims.

After having fought so hard to demobilize workers in the 1970’s, when the fall of the Caetano dictatorship was followed by a period of mass working-class direct action we use to call PREC, the left is starting to realize the consequences of having been too successful, as there is no one left to fight over the scraps of the Social State that have survived the continuous bourgeois violent attack. But reengaging the masses and starting a real fight is too dangerous for them, as they fear things may easily get out of their hands. Hence, their struggle is always carried out in a deliberately limited and ineffective way. Like one-day strikes.

Continue reading on the national Solidarity Federation website…

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