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Portugal: Democracy Takes to the Streets on October 15

This post is part of our special coverage page Europe in Crisis.

In Portugal, on the global action day [pt] scheduled for October 15, 2011, ‘democracy will go on to the streets'. The non-partisan, secular and peaceful protest is being arranged in the main cities of the country, calling for “participatory democracy, transparency in policy and the end of the precariousness of life”:

A actual governação assenta numa falsa democracia em que as decisões estão restritas às salas fechadas dos parlamentos, gabinetes ministeriais e instâncias internacionais. Um sistema sem qualquer tipo de controlo cidadão, refém de um modelo económico-financeiro, sem preocupações sociais ou ambientais e que fomenta as desigualdades, a pobreza e a perda de direitos à escala global. Democracia não é isto!

Democracy goes out to the streets: schedule of the demonstrations in the main Portuguese cities.

Democracy goes out to the streets: schedule of the demonstrations in the main Portuguese cities.

The current governance is based on a false democracy in which decisions are confined to closed rooms of parliament, cabinet ministers and international instances. A system without any kind of citizen control, held hostage to an economic and financial model, without any social or environmental concerns and which fosters inequality, poverty and loss of rights on a global scale. Democracy is not this!

In the various manifestos [pt] that are in circulation, there is widespread discontent with the ruling neo-liberal policies and towards the measures of social cuts and privatization of public services imposed by the”troika” (International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission), to tackle the economic crisis the country is experiencing.

More specific claims have been added to the manifest by the citizens of each city where the 15 October is being organized, as in the case of collective city of Porto, which points out:

- retirem o memorando. vão embora. não queremos o governo do FMI e da troika!
- nacionalização da banca – com os planos de resgate, o estado tem pago à banca para especular
- abram as contas da dívida – queremos saber para onde foi o dinheiro
- não ao pagamento da dívida ilegítima. esta dívida não é nossa – não devemos nada, não vendemos nada, não vamos pagar nada!
- queremos ver redistribuídas radicalmente as riquezas e a política fiscal mudada, para fazer pagar mais a quem mais tem: aos banqueiros, ao capital e aos que não pagam impostos.

- Withdraw the memorandum. Go away. We don't want the governance of the IMF and the troika!
- Nationalization of the banks – with rescue plans, the state has paid to the banks to speculate
- Open the debt accounts – we want to know where the money went
- No to the payment of illegitimate debt. This debt is not ours – we owe nothing, seeing nothing, we will not pay anything!
- We want to see the wealth radically redistributed and the fiscal policy changed, to make who has more pay more: the bankers, the capital and those who do not pay taxes.

Dispersion in online mobilization

We are many, we are not afraid! Poster by Gui Castro Felga for October 15

We are many, we are not afraid! Poster by Gui Castro Felga for October 15

Unlike what happened in the run-up to the Geração à Rasca (The ‘Scraping-By’ Generation) event on March 12, 2011, in which more than 70,000 people confirmed their attendance via a Facebook event (and hundreds of thousands took to the streets), participant numbers in advance for 15 October for each of the mobilizing cities – Angra do Heroísmo, Braga, Coimbra, Évora, Faro, Lisboa, Porto and Santarém – are very low.

More than one thousand confirmations have only been exceeded in Lisbon (6,594) and Porto (1,720) [at the time this article was published]. The main Facebook page created for this purpose, has only gathered 1,437 likes.

One must wait for the October 15 to verify if these numbers represent a lack of interest in the mobilizations or if they are the result of dispersion of online presence in social networks. Meanwhile, calls for preparatory assemblies and collective creation of posters, banners and other media in various courts throughout the country have multiplied via Facebook.

A group of citizens involved in the organization of October 15 has set up a video entitled ‘Do not make excuses!', aimed at mocking the motivations of those who decide not to go into the streets:

Mainstream media has not been giving much attention to the organization of the demonstration. News channels [pt] have reported on the government's fear that ‘the social peace will be disturbed’ as a result of the event. The organization has repudiated this possibility in a press release. Renato Teixeira from 5dias.net blog, outlined [pt] the government's statements as a “strategy of fear” to ward the “indignados” off the streets.

Tomás Vasquez, from the blog Hoje Há Conquilhas, comments [pt] a report on the demonstration of March 12 which was aired recently on one of the main Portuguese television channels:

a peça televisiva terminou assim: «A polícia teme que esta movimentação social possa provocar tumultos, os maiores desde 1975». O mundo está a ficar perigoso, os senhores do dinheiro põem e dispõem; a Europa está de rastos e quem paga a factura dos desmandos financeiros são sempre os mesmos, mas quando cidadãos querem mostrar o seu desagrado e «mijam fora do penico» ficam todos em pânico. Compreender os fenómenos sociais e políticos novos em vez de os atacar com caçadeira de canos cerrados é a melhor maneira de contribuir para uma sociedade mais justa e igualitária que cada vez se afasta mais do nosso horizonte.

the television piece ended this way: “Police fear that this social mobilization may cause unrest, the most since 1975.” The world is getting dangerous, the money lords use and abuse; Europe is crumbling and who pays the bill for the financial abuses are always the same, but when people want to show their displeasure and “step out of the box” everyone panics. Understanding the new social and political phenomena rather than attacking them with shotguns is the best way to contribute to a more just and egalitarian society, one that increasingly moves away more of our horizon.

To finalize, the blog Ladrões de Gado shares [pt] a reflection on collective mobilization:

Quero aprender com todas as experiências que levaram a luta pela emancipação do mundo a algum lado, por mais tenebrosa que tenha sido a derrota. Quero saber das meias vitórias e não do número de pessoas na rua das 15h às 21h de um dia qualquer. (…) É preciso que toda a gente se junte, sim, mas contra o que vivemos agora (e o que temos vivido até agora) e não só por si. (…) A quantidade de vezes que leio e oiço ‹‹eu›› e ‹‹tu›› nestas convocações para o 15 de Outubro faz-me alguma coisa confusão. Não que cada um não seja uma pessoa diferente, (…) mas o que está aqui em causa não é eu e tu, somos nós e a forma como queremos viver uns com os outros.

I want to learn from all the experiences that have led the struggle for emancipation of the world somewhere, no matter how dark the defeat was. I want to know the half victories and not the number of people on the streets from 3 to 9 pm  on some day. (…) We need everyone to gather, yes, but against what we are living now (and we have experienced so far) and not for oneself. (…) The number of times I read and hear “me” and “you” in these calls for October 15 makes me somehow confused. Not that everyone is not a different person, (…) but what is at stake here is not you and me, but we and how we live with each other.

This post is part of our special coverage page Europe in Crisis.

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