Written in Lisbon, Portugal on November 10, 2012
I arrived in Lisboa yesterday evening. All the roundabouts are draped with banners from the various different political organisations. The Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) has bought massive advertising spaces mobilising for the general strike on November 14, the MRPP (the Maoists) just scrawl with red and black paint on the walls. Their slogans call for Revolucao. Bloco de Esquerda (BE) has red flags hanging from lamp-posts and posters advertising the Friday evening rally with SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras and Front de Gauche’s presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Delegates from across Europe and Latin America are being put up in a fancy four-star hotel. While I ‘enjoyed’ dinner with leading members of the Parti Communiste Francaise (PCF) who didn’t talk about anything else than the so-called ‘Trotskyists’ and ‘Black Bloc’, I later witnessed how a group of women were scrounging for food in the
The opening rally was massive. I was surprised by the large number of young people present. There must have been 2000 people packed into a gym waving their flags, chanting slogans and booeing every time the name Angela Merkel fell. Jan-Luc Melenchon sent his apologies and had a great speech read out by some Front de Gauche member. Unfortunately, Alexis Tsipras only spoke on camera about forming a ‘left government’. This was echoed by Bloco speakers as well. (I will write some thoughts on the ‘left government’ question as the congress continues).
Francisco Louca advanced three proposals: 1) government of the left 2) debt restructuring 3) need for a united fightback against the troika. He went on to describe Wednesday’s South-European General Strike as “the picket line for Europe”. In later conversations with Bloco members it became clear that the majority of the Portuguese population are afraid of raising the ‘Exit from the Euro’ despite the very fact that Portuguese workers are financing German banks (rather than the nice Germans helping the poor Portuguese).
The rally ended in chants. It already was midnight. I met a PSOL member from Brazil who knows a friend in Germany.
We ended up going to one collective (MOB) that some artists from the Bloco and others opened up three months ago. Everyone is hyped up about the N14 General Strike. Students were telling me about their mobilising meetings and how they are organising the picket lines alongside researchers and academics at the universities. Others tell me about how the unemployed are organising for the day.
Yet, no one could tell me what the demonstration against Merkel would be like. Perhaps it is because the Greeks raised the bar too high. As one of the young Bloco members told me: “This is after all Portugal. April 74 was very different to the Polytechnic uprising.”