by Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action
The hollowing out of “democracy” is now complete. A united left won the clear majority in Portugal’s parliamentary elections, and the president of the country is refusing to allow them to form a government, directing that the minority, pro-Euro-zone conservatives, continue to govern. On top of the austerity forced on Syriza in Greece, splitting the party, this exposes the limits of European parliamentary democracy. Europe’s governments are inherently more democratic and responsive to popular majorities than the US Presidential and Congressional federal system, with its checks and balances between executive, legislative and judicial branches, and an Electoral College and Senate based on states rather than population.
If European countries with recent revolutionary, anti-fascist experiences, well-established socialist, communist and social-democratic parties, and a long history of intense, conscious class struggle are blocked from enacting a popular desire for socialist alternatives to austerity and direct corporate rule, imagine how immeasurably more difficult an electoral path towards it would be in the US, world bastion of reaction, colonialism and white supremacy.
Says Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the UK Telegraph about Portugal: “[Pres.] Cavaco Silva is using his office to impose a reactionary agenda, in the interests of creditors and the European Monetary Union establishment… Portuguese Socialists and Communists have buried the hatchet on their bitter divisions for the first time since the Carnation Revolution and the overthrow of the Salazar dictatorship in the 1970s, yet they are being denied their parliamentary prerogative to form a majority government…. Portuguese conservatives and their media allies behave as if the Left has no legitimate right to take power, and must be held in check by any means. [This is] familiar ñ and chilling ñ to anybody familiar with 20th century Iberian history, or Latin America. That it is being done in the name of the euro is entirely to be expected.
“Greeceís Syriza movement, Europeís first radical-Left government in Europe since the Second World War, was crushed into submission for daring to confront eurozone ideology. Now the Portuguese Left is running into a variant of the same meat-grinder.
“Europeís socialists face a dilemma. They are waking up to the truth that monetary union is an authoritarian Right-wing enterprise that has slipped its democratic leash, yet if they act on this insight they [are] prevented from taking power.”

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