Desperate Generation - Portugal

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Valerio Monteventi:

"In recent months, new and unprecedented forms of social aggregation have emerged in parallel with more traditional forms of union organization. Many such aggregations involve the young portuguese generation better known as the“generation without indemnity.” Like their contemporaries in neighboring european countries and North Africa, they often mobilize in facebook. On the 12th of march, youth from the “Geração à Rasca” (the Desperate Generation) organized and invoked rallies in Lisbon, Porto, and a dozen other portuguese cities in order to “rise up and say ‘enough is enough.’” The young protesters, operating in the wake of freshly approved austerity measures ushered in by the government, succeeded in mobilizing portuguese of all age groups as more than 70,000 people demonstrated their opposition in a Lisbon rally together with tens of thousands who marched in the streets throughout Portugal’s most important cities. These people represent Portugal’s new generation of precarious workers, educated and with university degrees, forced to jump from internship to internship with no future prospects or any form of social coverage.

The “Geração à Rasca” defines itself (link to original language manifesto) as “we, the unemployed, the ‘five hundred euro per month’ slaves in disguise, subcontracted workers, fixed-term workers, illusory independent workers, occasional workers, perpetual internship workers and grant recipients, student workers, students, mothers, fathers and children of Portugal.”

During the rally on the 12th of march dedicated to their struggle, the “Geração à Rasca” declared: “an entire generation is destined to forego the minimum conditions necessary for living with dignity. We ask portuguese society to open its eyes: we are the most skilled and qualified generation in our country’s history and our country is condemned to overlook and usurp our potential.” Young portuguese precarious workers and unemployed decided to give an artistic spirit to their protests in the streets. Deolinda’s song “Um Contra O Outro” (Against Each Other) became their anthem and the portuguese musical group “Homens da Luta” (Men of the Struggle) even passed the eurovision song selection with their song “A Luta è Alegria” (The Struggle is Joy).

Elísio Guerreiro Estanque, professor of sociology at the faculty of Economics at the University of Coimbra and researcher at the Center for Social Studies (CES), nevertheless warns that “the discontent continues to grow, putting into discussion a certain type of control and sense of ideological belonging, demonstrating an incapability of organizational programs and bodies (unions, political parties, etc) in understanding and comprehending the voices of discontent and dissent. And this very lack of comprehension runs the risk of facilitating an authentic social explosion.”

Joao Pacheco, one of the more active young participants in the protest movement declared: “There is no doubt that the growing anger will eventually explode. What I wonder is whether people will continue to opt-out with antidepressant medication or other forms of self-destruction, or if they will ask themselves if they heads of the powerful should start rolling....I see a phenomenon which imitates much of which is happening in arab countries at this moment, with an important difference: the police haven’t dispersed our protests as they did in Tunisia. What we have in common with the tunisians is that my generation is a victim of blackmail: take the little we offer you or you will get nothing: precariety or unemployment.”

The just over thirty film director, Raquel Freire also warns: “with or without violence, no revolution will take place, and the whole country is destined to loose. If this generation doesn’t succeed in doing that which the generation of april 25th 1974 (the carnation revolution) accomplished, if they don’t succeed in saying ‘enough’ to the existing political powers and in overcoming the hardships of slavery which they are forced to endure...because I define slavery as the loss of social rights which existed in Portugal up until ten years ago...if this generation does not succeed, they only choice will be emigration, sending 30 years of development up in smoke. In other words, Portugal is at risk of loosing the best minds of the most educated generation it ever possessed and Portugal will be transformed into a racket for english and german tourists.”

The “Geração à Rasca “doesn’t intend to give in,” as forcefully outlined in their manifesto: “we are here, right now, because we cannot continue to accept this precarious situation which we were dragged into. We are here now to struggle day by day in order to earn a future with dignity which will bring stability and security into all spheres of our lives. (...) We are the generation with the highest level of training in the history of our country. We will therefore not be overcome by fatigue, frustration or lack of options. We firmly believe that we have the resources and tools which can construct a better future both for us and all of Portugal. We have nothing against the other generations. We simply exist, and we do not want to wait for our problems to resolve themselves. We protest in search of a solution individuated through our participation.” (