Portugal and the Anti-Austerity Revolution

I must say I was surprised to read “What price democracy?” (November 2, Leicester Mercury). Penned by the well-known former UKIP activist, Edward Spalton, the letter highlighted the recent electoral success of socialist anti-austerity campaigners in Portugal.

Less surprising perhaps was the fact that Spalton was really only tending to his own Euro-obsessions. Portugal’s inspiring example of people-power was being abused by Spalton because the Left coalition won “with a mandate to smash the austerity regime, enforced by the euro.”

Left blocSpalton, like many libertarian warriors, may court the public with populist rhetoric, but when it comes to the crunch, the public are just so much cannon fodder for his pro-business free-market dogma.

This elitism can be seen quite clearly in a blog piece that he wrote titled “On democracy” for the ultra-right-wing Traditional Britain Group. Spalton begins with some casual racism, all the better to disparage the thought of any meaningful collective action being taken by the global working class:

“If you have been on holiday to some of the more popular foreign destinations and seen our fellow countrymen and women en masse, it certainly gives you second thoughts about the desirability of being ruled by such people.” People who, he reminds us, can be “stupid, brutish, selfish, capricious and destructive.”

No mention is made of the selfish role played by super-rich elites, like his friends, in ensuring that so many people living in popular foreign destinations continue to suffer in dire poverty.

Spalton fumes about how “the Welfare state has grown monstrously” in Britain. But his free market alternative would have the majority of us live in slums, repressed under the iron rule of an authoritarian government, perhaps one like the former Portugese dictatorship.

For Spalton, the working-class have never played a progressive role in political decision-making. This leads him to observe that “Every revolution and successful political movement has depended not on ‘the people’ but on a committed elite…”

The truth is the complete opposite.

The recent growth of increasingly successful political movements, united in their struggle against austerity across Europe, owes entirely to the collective and democratically organised fight-back led by millions of ordinary people. The same is true in Portugal, Greece, or here in Britain — as evidenced by the groundswell of support for the socialist ideas of Jeremy Corbyn.

The overthrow of Portugal’s fascist dictatorship in 1974 only provides the most recent example of a successful workers’ revolution on the European continent.

Here it is critical to remember that democracy only flourished in Portugal because of the relentless organising efforts of normal people, most particularly those tirelessly organising themselves within the trade union movement.

It is precisely because of such positive historical examples, that the Tories are doing everything in their power to undermine the ability of ordinary people to coordinate their resistance through the trade union movement: hence the Tories anti-democratic Trade Union Bill.

This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury on November 2, 2015.

Two useful articles about the 1974 revolution include “The flowering of the masses” and “40 years since the Portugese Revolution.

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