Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary, Seminar "Rights, Sovereignty, Cooperation, Peace: A Europe of Workers and Peoples"

"Another Europe of workers and peoples must be born and make a break with the current process of capitalist integration"

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At the closing of this seminar, jointly organised by PCP’s Delegation in the European Parliament and by the GUE/NGL, I would like to begin by greeting all participants and in particular the speakers at this seminar, valorising and thanking their important contributions. Thanks that, on behalf of the PCP, we would like to extend especially to our foreign guests, representatives of communist, progressive and left parties from Germany, Belgium, Cyprus, Spain and France.

To them we reaffirm our solidarity with their struggles in defence of the interests of the workers and peoples of their countries and our commitment to develop our cooperation in the struggle for another Europe of workers and peoples, of freedom, rights, solidarity, peace and cooperation.

A cooperation which has an important expression in the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left of the European Parliament. The PCP maintains its determination to give continuity to this space and experience of cooperation. A continuity which, in PCP’s view, must continue to be based on preserving the Group's confederal character and reaffirming its independence, identity and objective of giving voice in the European Parliament to the struggles of workers and peoples; affirming and defending progressive policies distinctive from those of the right and of social democracy, and giving expression and content to the struggle for another path for Europe.

It is the need for this other path that emerges from the reality on the European continent. The various contributions at this Seminar confirm that the situation in Europe - portraying the international situation - is highly unstable and unsecure and increasingly unsustainable. The workers and peoples of the European continent are facing great dangers and are victims of the injustices and consequences of the capitalist integration process.

We are experiencing one of the most delicate, complex and dangerous periods in the history of the European continent that reminds us of some of the darkest pages in history. A period in which social gains achieved by the struggle of generations and generations of workers are openly attacked; in which democratic rights, national sovereignty and independence are called into question; in which the most basic human rights are denied to the victims of migration forced by imperialism's policies of plunder and war; in which the emphasis on militarism and war generates increasing tensions with unpredictable consequences; in which the dangers of new and more violent surges of economic crises are accentuated; and where far-right forces feed on exploitation and serious social problems, as well as attacks on national sovereignty and the right to development.

The situation of deep multifaceted crisis on the European continent lies in the class nature of the capitalist integration process and in the national policies that, over decades, have given and continue to support it. As an expression of the crisis of the capitalist system and its contradictions, the crisis of the European Union is the result of concrete policies, favouring big business, finantialization of the economy, promotion of free movement of capital, liberalisation of markets, privatisations, growing exploitation, increasing accumulation of capital, attack on the social functions of the State, centralisation of political power on supranational institutions dominated by big business.

The reality in many European countries, and also in Portugal, shows that the class nature and policies of the European Union are in open clash with the rights and aspirations of workers and peoples, serving the objective of monopolist concentration in Europe, and the affirmation of the European Union as an imperialist political, economic and military bloc.

Confirming in its dynamics its capitalist nature and matrix, the economic and political instruments with which the European Union has been empowered - and which have already been described here - have progressively enhanced problems, social inequalities, development asymmetries and divergences. And they have inevitably brought into question central aspects of national sovereignty from economic and budgetary sovereignty, to foreign policy, internal security, border control and, more recently, political democracy, thus proving that class exploitation is associated with the oppression of the national feelings of the peoples.

With the economic and financial crisis that broke out in 2008, this trend became even more pronounced, thus proving more clearly why and who they serve with the existing and meanwhile created instruments. As it has been and is visible in our country, the European Union's policies and instruments are aimed at transferring to the workers the consequences of the economic crisis and are aimed at preventing the affirmation of policies and alternatives of any progressive nature that question the aims and dominance of big business.

The result of this process is in sight. The dynamics of social regression and sharpening of asymmetries were further accentuated and the rights to development and social progress were further undermined by deepening the trend of a European Union at multiple speeds eroded by inevitable contradictions.

It is this development that is at the root of the continuing economic and social crisis, as well as of its inevitable political expression, whether with the deepening of the antidemocratic character of European Union’s policies, growing interference, the growth of the far right or the deepening of contradictions in the very process of integration of which the process of Great Britain exiting the European Union is one of the most important examples.

In this regard, we want to highlight the role of the communists and other British progressive forces who have increasingly affirmed a progressive alternative project of exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, and we want to reaffirm that the will of the British people must be respected; that this process should not be used for further attacks on labour and social rights in the United Kingdom and in the European Union; and that the rights of migrant workers, including Portuguese nationals who work and live in the United Kingdom, must be respected.

In view of the persistence of all problems, which particularly affect countries like Portugal, the European Union has been testing the idea of its own refoundation and reforming some of its instruments, notably in the area of Economic and Monetary Union, as a way of overcoming contradictions and the growing challenge to its policies.

But once again, and like previous periods, part of this discourse is pure propaganda and the other part are true smokescreens aimed at concealing the real aims of persistence and deepening of the course of the European Union.

As was referred here today, the roadmap for a supposed refoundation of the Euro is nothing more than a deepening of various instruments of interference and conditionality, and the supposed new attention on social and labour rights - propagandized with the so-called European social pillar is nothing short of a scam.

Moreover, if there were any doubts about this, it would be enough to look at the discussion on the European Union's Budget and clearly note that: the cut of funds that could mitigate certain social problems, such as funds for cohesion and for the common agricultural policy; that European funds will increasingly be subject to macroeconomic conditionality of imposing new attacks on labour rights and social functions of the State; and that what is really increased are the funds that feed the projects of big monopolies or, a very serious matter, the money to enhance the militarisation of the European Union, a pillar that is rapidly developing, as confirmed by the recent declarations by Mrs Merkel calling for the constitution of the old imperialist dream of the Single European Army, or by the content of the speeches in the recent commemorations of the Armistice that, omitting the real causes of World War I, feed this same militaristic project that in no way questions NATO. To the contrary, reinforces the European Union as its European pillar.

In fact, what is at issue is not refoundation or reform. The European Union has already shown that it is not reformable. The path that they are now trying to chart is to follow exactly the same course that brought Europe to the present situation. What lies behind the discourses of "uniting Europe" or "more Europe" is the attempt to deepen the neoliberal, militarist and federalist pillars of the European Union, using a vast set of mystifications, pretexts and hypocritical necessity to combat phenomena, many of which arose from the very policies of the European Union and NATO, like the far right, international insecurity, the arms race or terrorism.

That is, their more Europe means more European Union. And more European Union means more crises, more inequalities, more asymmetries, more militarisation and open field for the growth of the far right and fascism.

Here in our country we are well aware of the result of this path of integration at the service of big business and the main capitalist powers.
In fact, Portugal, with its increased structural deficits, is quite the example of years and years of right-wing policies, of capitalist restoration and monopolist recovery, of successive governments and of a European integration policy at the service of transnational capital that promoted and enhanced it in its most negative and disastrous traits.

Decades of policies that profoundly deprived the country of its productive sectors. The dangers and threats to national production, agriculture, fisheries and industry that we identified very early in the process of European capitalist integration and that we portrayed as "a clay pot clashing with an iron pan" have been confirmed.

The degradation and liquidation of the national productive sectors is an undeniable fact and the cause of the increasing problems that the country faces. The weight of industry, agriculture and fisheries in the country's economy now represents less than a quarter of the wealth generated. Portugal has one of the largest food deficits in Europe. We are practically lacking in everything.

A profoundly negative evolution that particularly affected the national strategic companies and sectors with their privatisation and which has led to the growing dominance of big national capital and, above all, foreign capital over the country's economy and its strategic levers.

An evolution that has led to the worsening of our main structural deficits, not only the productive but also the energetic, scientific and technological, and the demographic, among others, a devaluation of the productive specialisation profile, a continuous increase of the foreign debt, to a prolonged and chronic economic stagnation, particularly evident in the first decade of this century, since Portugal joined the Euro.

This evolution has been accompanied by a prolonged offensive that led to the weakening and destruction of important economic and social rights of workers and populations, a scandalous concentration and centralisation of wealth, and the weakening and reduction of the various forms of exercising democracy.

This path that led to further regression, dependence, impoverishment and economic and social divergence of the country with the so-called "financial assistance programmes", like the one imposed on Portugal.

A real Pact of Aggression - subscribed by PS, PSD and CDS - which resulted in a violent increase in unemployment, a sharp economic regression, a brutal increase in the privatisation process of public companies in strategic sectors, a renewed assault against labour and other social rights, deterioration of public services and the social functions of the State, and a sharp rise in public debt.

Years that were marked by a qualitative leap of the attack against the popular interests and of ruin of the country.

Decades of right-wing policies and capitalist integration that reveal the failure of current national and European solutions and guidelines to solve the problems of our country.

It was and is this policy that is the target of the struggle and protest of the workers and the Portuguese people. And it was the deepening of this policy that was blocked, and in several aspects called into question, with the intervention of the PCP, which in October 2015 opened the door to the new phase of national political life.

An intervention that enabled to find the political solution to prevent the continuation of a more conservative and revanchist right-wing government of the PSD/CDS coalition and, based on the correlation of forces found in the Assembly of the Republic and the more favourable conditions for the development of the struggle of the workers and the people, to respond to pressing problems and to initiate a process of restoration and recovery of rights and income extorted in recent years.

We did this by affirming and ensuring our independence and identity. It was not and is not the full answer to the solution of the country's fundamental problems. We know that only one obstacle has been removed and that only a few most pressing problems of the workers and the people have been solved. We know that we need to go much further to address the serious problems facing the country.

What we have already achieved, together with the struggle of our people, was very important. A government that stretched to the extreme its right-wing policies, and that had as its aim even greater attacks against many aspects of the democratic regime in our country, was defeated,

But we also know that the right-wing policy has not yet been defeated and remains a structural option of the country's governance. A governance subject to the interests of large economic groups, the dictates and constraints of the Euro and the European Union and tied to an unsustainable debt.

It is, therefore, a struggle that is fought in a demanding and complex framework. A framework where there are sharp contradictions resulting from the political choices of the PS Government and the continuation of a convergent action with PSD and CDS on matters important to the interest of big business. A clear convergence on issues of labour legislation, with a view to maintaining and perpetuating the changes of cuts in the rights of workers that the governments of the last few years have implemented, but also when it comes to ensuring the interests of banks and financial capital or giving cover to the macroeconomic and budgetary restrictive options affecting the national interest contained in the instruments of interference and conditioning of sovereignty, as is the case of the Stability Pact, of the rules of the European semester and economic governance.

A contradictory framework in which huge and systematic pressures from the European Union are present. Pressures aimed at imposing the dictatorship of the deficit and a draconian schedule of debt repayment, at the expense of investment to combat backwardness and promote social development and progress.

Pressures that have been partially contained with the struggle of the workers and the people. A broad struggle that in this period has proved to be decisive to ensure advances and prevent setbacks. Yesterday we witnessed a great demonstration here in Lisbon of Portuguese workers, called by CGTP-IN!

In the last three years and despite the contradictory framework and pressures, it has been possible to raise wages and pensions, improve incomes, reverse tax increases on labour, extend social support, return and conquer new rights, proving that the country is not condemned to have as a path the liquidation of rights or the worsening of the living conditions of the people.

They were steps forward, albeit limited, in the lives of the workers and the people that a government of the PS, in other circumstances, would not accept or adopt and which, as was visible, caused some irritation and discomfort in the neoliberal orthodoxy of Brussels!

But Portugal is far from having the policy it needs to overcome the structural problems that persist and worsen while not being answered.
That is why the struggle to embark on a new path remains on the agenda as an imperative need to ensure the national interests, of the workers and the people.

Portugal needs a government and a policy that unwaveringly confronts the conditionings of the European Union and its instruments of usurpation of sovereignty.

It needs a policy that assumes the recovery of monetary sovereignty with the liberation of the country from subordination to the Euro, putting an end to the drastic cuts in public investment that has an urgent need to renegotiate the debt to free resources putting an end to this gigantic and continuing mechanism of theft of national wealth.

Portugal needs a policy and a government that decisively promotes national production and its diversification, having as central aims: full employment, replacement of imports, support to micro, small and medium-size companies.

It needs to provide means for the country's reindustrialization. It needs more agriculture. More fishing. Strengthen innovation, research and development in production.

It needs a policy that counters the revenues of dominant capitalism with the recovery by the State of political and democratic control of the development process, aiming at the affirmation of sovereignty, on the basis of a State Business Sector with a productive role in strategic sectors, namely in energy, telecommunications and transport, banking and insurance, a key condition for the maintenance in national hands of the economic levers that are decisive for the promotion of development.

Portugal needs a policy of valorising work and workers. As an essential part of an alternative policy, its implementation requires the materialisation of a break with the path of exploitation and the defence of workers' rights, the valorisation of wages, the right to job stability and security, a decisive fight against precariousness, deregulation of working time, the end of the grievous aspects of labour legislation.

Portugal needs a policy that strengthens social rights, ensures decent social benefits and aids, ensures a public and universal social security system, and fulfils the obligation to support the most disadvantaged and unprotected people, including people with disabilities, the elderly, children and their parents, ensuring conditions for them to grow healthy and happy.

Portugal urgently needs to overcome the serious problems facing public services with a social policy aimed at equality, dignity and well-being of the Portuguese, capable of ensuring their rights to healthcare, education, social protection, housing, culture, transport.

A policy of environmental protection and territorial planning and promotion of effective regional development, based on the rational use of resources, a judicious policy of public investment and other policies aimed at a greater territorial balance and an economic and social cohesion of the various regions.

A policy that guarantees the effective subordination of economic power to political power, the combat and punishment of corruption, economic crime and influence peddling. A policy that assumes the defence of national sovereignty and independence as an essential feature and exercise by the people of the right to decide their own destiny, and as a contribution to the defeat of a process of capitalist integration based on the logic of dominance, exploitation and imposition.

The patriotic and left-wing policy that the PCP proposes to the people and to the country of course has first a national dimension. But it also has an internationalist dimension that aims to contribute to one of the central issues of our day: the creation of real foundations in each of our countries to advance the struggle for another Europe.

To the PCP this other Europe of workers and peoples must be born and make a break with the current process of capitalist integration.
Reality is proving that the solution does not lie in an unreformable European Union in which its three pillars are inseparable.

To the PCP another Europe of workers and peoples will be born with the conjugation of four converging and dialectically related factors:
- the development of the struggle of workers and peoples and the growing political awareness of the class nature of the European Union;
- the sovereign assertion of the right to economic and social development of the European States and the rejection of the European Union's impositions;
- the change in the political and institutional correlation of forces in the Member States of the European Union;
- and the articulation and cooperation of the progressive and left-wing forces, especially the communists, based on a clear break with the process of European capitalist integration.

Just as the right-wing policy supports and is the national expression of the class option that guides the process of European capitalist integration, likewise the break with this process implies the construction, at the national level, of alternatives that reject neo-liberalism and exploitation on the one hand and on the other, supranational impositions, thereby undermining the foundations on which the European Union is based.

In Portugal this struggle continues and has achieved some results in recent years.

Although there is still a long way to go, the PCP believes that building a patriotic and left-wing alternative in Portugal will be the best and safest contribution to building a Europe of workers and peoples, of social progress, justice, solidarity, peace and cooperation between sovereign and equal in rights States.

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