The 6th October Portuguese elections had a special meaning, because they happened after four years of the Geringonça government which was claimed as the government of stability after austerity measures, not only by the international bourgeoisie (IMF, ECB, EU) but also by various sectors of the left around the world. We present some conclusions that we believe are important to draw from this process in order to advance at the political impact understanding of Geringonça government.
By: Em Luta / Portugal
- The Geringonça avoided the PS (Socialist Party) falling, although it did not get an absolute majority.
There’s no doubt that the big winner at past October 6 was the Socialist Party (PS), which got it 36,65% of the votes, with Antonio Costa being immediately nominated by President Marcelo as the new Prime-Minister, who looks now to set up a new Government. The Bloco de Esquerda (BE – Left Block) maintains the same number of deputies, being Parliament’s third force, but it goes down from 10,22% to 9,67% of votes, thus not meeting the expectation of capitalizing to the left the Geringonça. The Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) had a major electoral defeat, as was already announced by the European and Municipal elections, losing 5 deputies and falling from 8,27% to 6,46%.
These elections make it clear that Geringonça only strengthened the PS. In fact, BE and PCP, by supporting the Government along four years, saved the PS from having a similar fate to the Greek PASOK or a historic defeat as happened to the Spanish PSOE during the crisis period.
Finally, a massive victory in Portugal allows the PS to be strengthened at international level, specially by the European institutions and among EU´s social-democrats, as well as deepening the Geringonça international prestige.
- Bipartisan Crisis Deepens
Although the PS has emerged victorious, it has not won the absolute majority, so it will depend upon agreements with other parties in Parliament to rule. Three new parties arrived in Parliament, expressing the seek for different alternatives from the parties that have been involved in national politics since April 25: PS, PSD, CDS, PCP and BE (which emerged only in 1999 it is a result of the unification of the far left organizations that also came from the April 25).
The PAN manages to capitalize the growth of environmental concerns and has a very significative growth going from 1 to 4 deputies, with 3,28% of the votes.
The three new who arrived in Parliament had little more than 1% each, winning one deputy each: the Iniciativa Liberal, which represents liberalism as opposed to the government´s supposed “socialism”; Chega which inaugurates the far right´s arrival at the Portuguese Parliament and Livre which was the first party to present a Black woman on the top of their list. These two parties’ results express opposite sides in a polarization that begins. In one side the development of a racist and xenophobic speech that seeks to divide the working class.
On the other hand, Joacine Moreira´s election (Livre), as well as two other Black women (Beatriz Dias for BE and Romualda Fernandes for PS), expresses an anti-racist fight that marked the last four years agenda many times (campaign by another nationality law, fight against police violence in Jamaica and Cova da Moura). There was also an increase in abstention from 43% in 2015 to 45,5% in 2019.
These results are, somehow, part of a political and union reorganization process which begins with the 2008 economic crisis and deepens with the Geringonça Government. The new unions growth and role they accomplished in past few years (Autoeuropa, teachers, dock workers, hazardous materials drivers, nurses) are the expression in the struggles of this reorganization.
Electorally the reorganization manifests itself at the new alternatives search, although those that emerged are not real alternatives for the workers. The PAN has already demonstrated that its program does not meet the expectations that elected it, when it is available to support the lithium extraction expansion project in Portugal. The Iniciativa Liberal wants to deepen the liberalism that has brought us to the present situation of rights losses and public services destruction. Livre is a party that defends the EU, in clear contradiction to the defense of an anti-racist policy.
And finally the Chega: its propositions, instead of “anti-system”, as they try to look like, its rather the aggravation of working classes life conditions as a whole, because it materializes in defending the end of public services in parallel with the strengthening of State repression measures. It is also based on the hate speech (racist and xenophobic) that divides the working class and hides the real culprits for the degradation of our living conditions, which are the bosses, the bankers and the multinationals.
Ventura made an angry speech to part of the working class but with Ricardos Salgado and Duartes Lima, the kind of people that he lived among during his PSD time, he is meek. That’s why is really important to fight back Chega project not only in elections but specially at the struggles. And pointing that the trully anti-system exit is through building a workers revolutionary alternative.
- Revolutionaries cannot support governments like Geringonça
As we said during the parliamentary elections, the Geringonça Government did not reverse austerity, it was not a workers’ government but a bosses’ government. When the left puts as its political outlet making agreements for the “stability” governments” constitution, which are in practice class-conciliation governments, it ends up presenting as a political strategy the support to bourgeois governments.
The BE tried to maintain the same strategy and just after the elections, even though it did not have the expected increase of votes, announced willingness to conform a Geringonça II. The PCP has indicated that it is not willing for a four-year deal, perhaps punctual deals, but it is still claiming the first Geringonça and therefore cannot explain the loss of votes they had. Although Geringonça has not been maintained as a governmental solution, both parties are available to collaborate for occasional majorities with the PS, thus making the government of the bosses viable again.
That is why EM FIGHT indicated that in these elections we should not strengthen the projects aimed at class conciliation and we call for the critical vote in left opposition parties, which were side by side with workers in the last period´s main struggles : MAS and MRPP.
The MRPP lost about 40% of the votes since 2015 but retains an important result (0.68%) for a force that claims to be revolutionary. However, we know that the speech of this party lacks a more concrete dialogue that starts from the workers’ needs. Moreover, it points to a nationalist solution as a solution for the country when we live in an increasingly worldwide capitalism.
MAS had its worst vote ever, with 0,06% of the votes, running in six districts of the country. Although they have shifted the axes of their campaign (which were ‘extreme right’ and ‘oppressions’ at the European elections), they have been unable to make a real Geringonça opposition and insist on the defense of PCP-BE unity as a government exit to the country, when these have been united in recent years to support the PS in the government. For this reason, Gil Garcia ends up arguing that it could make a left-wing government viable, when asked if it could enable a PS or PSD government solution in a debate in the RTP between the small parties. Unfortunately, didn´t draw a red line in face of bourgeois governments.
- It takes a workers’ revolutionary alternative
The main conclusion that we can take from the Government of Geringonça and from these elections is that we cannot stay by the logic of the “lesser evil”, we have to build real alternatives for the workers.
The next period will be a big challenge for the workers. Faced with a more unstable economic situation, it will be necessary to combat the next Costa government, which has already announced that it intends to implement “structural reforms” and in the face of new workers’ struggles will spare no efforts to repress them, as did in the last government. At the same time, it will also be necessary to fight back false alternatives, leading to class conciliation or disputing workers for a racist and xenophobic program like Chega’s.
It takes unity to struggle and the development of an independent, democratic and combative trade unionism. The situation of young and black people, women and LGBTs and retirees increasingly demands a strong and consequent struggle, which is only possible in the opposite way to class conciliation.
However, in order to not let our achievements recede we have to go further. It is necessary a new revolution in Portugal to overthrow capitalism and build a new, socialist society without oppression and exploitation. For this new revolution a political alternative is needed, we have to build a political party that is in daily struggles and, above all, has a revolutionary program to confront the ruling class and its governments. It is at the service of this project that is EM LUTA.