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Portugal: Police Batons for Protesters and Rubber Bullets for the Kids of Bela Vista

This article was first published on Monthly Review.

Ruben Marques, 18, died at the hands of the police in the barrio of Bela Vista, Setúbal, Portugal, on Saturday, March 16.  His crime: he crossed a red traffic light with his moped.

Bela Vista on the night of Reuben Marques' death

The media blame the victim for not wearing a helmet, the Communist Party mayor blames the victim for stealing the motorbike, and the police turn the victim into the culprit

Ruben is one of many casualties of police brutality in marginalized working-class communities under siege.  Just recently, the police officer who shot the 14-year-old“Kuku” at point-blank range was acquitted by the courts.  Tony’s mural has remained colorful since 2002.

As news of Ruben’s death reaches more and more shacks and apartments of immigrants from Portugal’s former colonies, travelers, and the unemployed, the police station gets surrounded by people in protest.  Young men and women start torching bins, vandalizing cars, and hurling rocks and glass. (more…)


Portugal: “I prefer the horses in my lasagne to the donkeys in the government”

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04 March 2013

I was invited to write this article for MRZine the Monday after 1.5 million people marched against austerity across Portugal on March 2

Last Saturday’s ‘Que Se Lixe a Troika’ (Fuck the Troika) demonstrations represent a quantitative as well as qualitative shift for the anti-austerity movement in Portugal. In more than 40 towns and cities across Portugal 1.5 million people (800 000 in Lisbon) took it to the streets against the government’s slavish submission to the dictates of the Troika of IMF, ECB and EU. In the wake of the first demonstration by ‘Que Se Lixe a Troika’ on September 15, an on-going militant dockers’ strike and a general strike on November 14 of last year, Saturday’s demonstration is starting to tackle the unfinished business of the 1974 Portuguese Revolution. (more…)

Díary: Some thoughts on the Left Bloc Congress

Bloco Esquerda Congress

Bloco Esquerda Congress

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
hotel’s skips.   (more…)

Crisis and Resistance in Portugal

Striking dockers on the 14N General Strike in Lisbon

Striking dockers on the 14N General Strike in Lisbon

December 2012

I recently attended the congress of the Left Bloc in Portugal and witnessed the general strike there a few days later. Here, I argue that Portugal is currently experiencing its biggest social and political upheaval since the 1974-5 Revolution. This article was first published in Socialist Review

A day before the right wing coalition government in Portugal was to vote through its 2013 budget, the German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble met his Portuguese counterpart Vitor Gaspar and proclaimed, “Portugal is on the right path and is, for all of us in the eurozone, a brilliant example that the approach we have been following to stabilise the euro is correct.” Schäuble went on to praise the “exceptional job” being performed by the Portuguese government. But recent events have shown that the austerity measures insisted on by the “Troika” of the European Union, European Central Bank and IMF are creating serious fissures inside the ruling coalition, growing resistance at the base of society and widespread debate inside of the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary left. (more…)

Portugal: “When good students turn sour”

Students on 14N General Strike in Lisbon

November 2012

First published on Trade Unions and Global Restructuring I report from my experience in Lisbon of how students and members of staff mobilised against cuts in HE as part of the November 14 general strike. While the current crisis is challenging, it nonetheless provides opportunities for students and members of staff to strengthen their joint resistance against austerity. 

Until recently Portugal had been labelled the ‘good student’ of the Eurozone as the Conservative-Social Democratic government slavishly implemented the austerity measures prescribed by the Troika. The November 14 General Strike last Wednesday will, however, be remembered as a game-changer for the movement against austerity. This was particularly exemplified by the resistance that students co-ordinated for the day. (more…)

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