Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary, PCP’s National Meeting on local elections

CDU: A force with a project based on work, honesty and competence

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Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary, PCP’s National Meeting on local elections - April 8th 2017

The proceedings of the National Meeting of our Party on the elections for local government to be held on October 1st. have come to an end.

The atmosphere we breathed here was an atmosphere of confidence. Confidence in our strength. Confidence in the capacity for realization, intervention and mobilization of our Party and of our allies - the Ecologist Party “The Greens” and the Democratic Intervention Association - whom we greet.

Confidence in the vitality and timeliness of the project of unity and democratic convergence embodied by CDU - which, mandate after mandate, has affirmed itself as a broad space of participation, debate and accomplishment to serve the populations.

The confidence of those who have a past of work and accomplishment that, in the most diverse and decisive areas of local government intervention, have made an invaluable contribution to the positive changes that have taken place in Portuguese society since April 25.

A pioneering work and accomplishment in several areas and that leave no doubt as to the direction and course of our intervention in defence of public interest and of the populations, expressed in the action and remarkable work in municipalities with CDU majority.

The confidence of those who proved capable of assuming, even in minority, as an indispensable voice, which embodied local causes and aspirations, and ensured a critical, demanding and constructive presence to ensure the protection of the interests of the populations.

The confidence of those who have a heritage of struggle and intervention of years and years of combat against the right-wing policy led by the PSD, CDS and PS governments that led not only to the deterioration of local government, and also the country to crisis and backwardness, and who have a firm and coherent intervention in defence of the vital interests of our people and the development of the Country.

The confidence of those who had, like the PCP, a decisive intervention in order to open a new phase of national political life and contain a brutal attack, led by PSD and CDS and their government, which in recent years went too far in attacking the conditions of life and rights of the Portuguese and was preparing to go further, at the cost of sinking the Country itself and of a widespread impoverishment of the populations.

The confidence of those who, with their initiative, struggle and proposals, contributed to restoring and achieving rights and incomes, taking steps to begin a reversal of the many social injustices directed against the workers, pensioners, youth, intellectuals and technical staff, farmers, small and medium-size entrepreneurs, the population in general, particularly in these last years of SGP and Pact of Aggression by national and foreign troikas.

Great confidence that does not underestimate the context of great demand in which we are going to wage this electoral battle. A battle that, although a priority of our action, the Party as a whole must continue to wage in a committed way on the various fronts where the defence of popular interests demands it, namely at the institutional level and in the mass struggle, and also in the continuation of the indispensable task of strengthening the Party.

This is why we are here to define the guidelines, take decisions on the coming elections for local government with the specific tasks of this battle, namely the composition of hundreds of slates, the broadening of the unitary work, the initiatives of accountability for the work done, the drawing of the programmes and electoral commitments to be presented, we cannot let go of our action where the interests of the workers, the people and the country demand the dedicated and informed intervention of the Portuguese communists.!

Right now, in the preparation of the celebrations of May 1st, which demand the involvement of the Party's militants and their commitment to the mobilization and dynamization of the claims struggle for concrete objectives in every the company and sector, aiming to make this historic day a great day of the struggle of Portuguese workers!

But also in the broadening of this combat that we are waging for the defence of production, employment, national sovereignty and the liberation of Portugal from submission to the Euro, with initiatives at the institutional level and at the level of debate, and mobilization of workers and our people regarding the importance of the country to face the current external constraints that are jeopardising its development and the urgency of affirming an alternative policy.

Equally, this other great battle for the valorisation of the work and the workers in which we are involved, which includes our national action "More rights, more future. No to precariousness”, which aims to eradicate precarious work, the valorisation of wages, the defence and restoration of workers' rights, with important institutional initiatives and with mass struggle.

We have much work ahead, in addition to the construction and materialization of our Avante! Festival.

Yes, we have reasons to march with confidence for these elections. Reasons added by the distinctive project of development that we stand for and have been implementing, and which, was once again presented here in our evaluation of the work of the elected representatives of the CDU and in the confirmed constancy of a style of work that makes popular participation and proximity an essential pillar of local government – CDU’s acknowledged project - based on work, honesty and competence as an alternative solution and proposal to the management by PS, PSD and CDS-PP.

The CDU is, in fact, a force with a distinctive and alternative project. Distinctive for its participative, profoundly democratic, representative, collegial nature and open to the participation of workers and populations.

It is clearly a force with a distinctive intervention in representing popular interests, a course of tireless defence of the rights of the workers and the people.
A force that, like no other, assumes the defence of Democratic Local Government. A force that, like no other, valorises and identifies with the unique and innovative matrix of local government born of the April Revolution. A Local Government truly representative of the populations. A widely participated and plural Local Government, endowed with an effective administrative and financial autonomy and expression of the effective power of the populations.

The force that, like no other, fought against the looting of the parishes from the people and demands their devolution. A negative decision that alienated people from local political life by hampering their capacity to intervene in solving problems, destroyed ties of belonging and identity, contributed to increasing asymmetries and increased democratic impoverishment with the loss of more than 20,000 local elected representatives and their contribution.

The force that has fought in the past against the many successive attempts coming from various governments, with the aim of curtailing the scope of Local Government and amputating its more advanced and democratic features, and which continues today at the forefront of the struggle for its valorisation and the effective reinforcement of its autonomous capacity, with the presentation of a series of important legislative initiatives, through its components, namely the PCP, which embodies a policy in the organisation of the State based on real decentralization.

A financing scheme based on a new Local Finance Law that respecting the constitutional principle of fair distribution of State resources ensures the conditions of stability in their application.

A law creating a metropolitan administration, breaking with the current model, with competences centred in the articulation, planning and coordination of functions and networks of metropolitan dimension and the creation of administrative regions.

A set of initiatives that are clearly distinguishable from the proposals advanced by the PS government, which are far behind and which result in a new procrastination of the effective decentralization that the Country needs.

This is the case, in fact, with the proposal of transfer of powers to local authorities, in which the principles, criteria and means that should govern the transfer process are absent.

A proposal designed for the process of transfer of competences which constitutes, by its extension and presuppositions, a step in the direction of an authentic reconfiguration of the State.

The implementation of attributions and competences is inseparable from the financial, material, human and organisational conditions available to local authorities that are far from guaranteed.

Decentralization and transfer of competences are not synonymous. Decentralization involves not only the power to execute and pay but also, and indispensably, the power to decide. Competences without means, as we have stated, are new burdens.

Accepting a new package of competencies that are almost inevitably under evaluated in terms of means for their full exercise, in a more general framework of total lack of guarantees of financial stability, is a step in the dark.

Given the current Local Finance Law, which is subject to the current options of each State Budget, what is expected in the short term is the enhancement of the financial suffocation of local governments, not only making it impossible to meet the new competencies but also harming the current ones.

The defence of the autonomy of local government and the strengthening of the participatory component in the life of the State undoubtedly requires a policy based on decentralization.

It demands the restoration and affirmation of the autonomy of Local Administration. But it demands more. An effective and sustained decentralization is inseparable from the establishment of administrative regions, and not simply a reformulation of the current deconcentrated structures of the central administration - the CCDRs - like the one presented by PS.

Its implementation is, first of all, an imperative to create the conditions for a regional development policy with the active participation of local government and economic and social agents.

This policy, which has been absent in all these years of right-wing policy governments of the PSD, CDS and PS, has led to the deepening of regional asymmetries, the desertification of large parts of the hinterland, the abandonment of activities that are support to their development and that still today have no answer, nor in the non-abandoned proposals for reform of the State by PSD and CDS, which follow the well-known path of cuts and more cuts in public services and social functions of the State, the denial of regionalization , nor in the announced reforms presented by the PS minority government.

Are not answered in its National Programme of Territorial Cohesion and in its wrong diagnosis about the origin of the difficulties of the interior and its underdevelopment. A programme that does not answer the central question of these regions: the reduction and weakness of economic activity and employment. Are not answered in its recent "Forest Reform", in its lack of response to its bottlenecks, nature and structural characteristics - in particular the weight of the small property - of the Portuguese forest. It forgets the central issue of the price of wood production so as not to touch the interests of large economic groups. Are not answered in the agricultural policy which toes the line of CAP and the right-wing policy criteria that remain and follow the destructive saga of new family farms with their unique role in land occupation.

When others insist on supporting the megalomaniac projects of agro-industrial production and large agribusiness, intensive and super intensive exploitation of the land, which will lead to its exhaustion, CDU will defend family farming, small and medium-sized farmers.

While others announce plans after plans, shedding crocodile tears on the abandonment and desertification of the rural world, CDU emphasizes that the essential measures are the defence of small and medium-sized agriculture and the forestry activity that binds populations to the land, the defence of the community ownership of vacant lands, reopening of essential public services, public investment capable of creating jobs with rights.

In this Meeting of ours and in the debate that we held, the differences of project that justify choosing the CDU was well defined.

But if this is a major battle for what it means at the local level, it is also an opportunity to give strength to the struggle we have waged to better defend the interests of the workers and people in this new phase of national political life.

A new phase undergoing a contradictory process, as a result of the limited scope of the options of the PS minority government. A contradictory process which, in order to advance in the solution of national problems and in the improvement of the people's living conditions, requires multiple ruptures with the path that has been followed in all these years. Rupture with right-wing policies. Rupture with the domination of monopoly capital over the life of the Country. Rupture with the policy of foreign submission. Ruptures that are only possible with a change in the correlation of forces in favour of the PCP and with the broadening of the struggle of the workers and the people for the alternative.

In these times following the new phase, it was already clear that the advances achieved, and that go beyond what the PS Programme admitted, were only possible, in a context in which the PS government does not have a majority, and the PCP and the Ecologist Party «The Greens», two of the components of the CDU, weigh in the changed composition of the Assembly of the Republic and in national life.

This is, therefore, a time to help make way for distinct options and projects confronting each other at the national level.

Between those who advocate, like PSD and CDS, the cut of the deficit at all costs and at the expense of investment, growth, social functions and that the PS somewhat follows, we, on the other hand, defend the priority of growth and investment as a way to reduce all our deficits in employment, production, public accounts and answer the social problems and the need to raise the incomes of workers and people.

Yes, we do not fire crackers due to the reducing the deficit, if this continues to be done at the expense of investment, development and to pay millions of loan shark interest rates on a debt that sinks us and could be renegotiated!

There are those who over the years have systematically imposed the levelling down of wages and workers' rights, promoted the destruction of labour-friendly legislation and collective bargaining to impose a policy of exploiting the labour force, in the name of competitiveness and competition. We, on the contrary, have valorised and valorise labour and the workers the banner of our struggle and our policy for the Country, the banner of the condition of development, struggle, denunciation and proposals to raise and ensure employment with rights.

The results of this policy are there in the Global Report of the International Labour Organization on wages which shows one dimension of this setback. Portugal is one of the countries where the weight of wages in the economy has declined more. One of the countries where the share of wages in National Income fell the most, going from 60% in 2003 to 52% in 2014. We are one the most unequal countries.

Today, we are the great force that continues to act in the right direction, for a change and to overcome the serious situation created, to act to overcome the resistance of those who want to maintain a labour legislation that has unbalanced relations in the labour world and gave strength to big business. They resist the non-elimination of caducity in collective bargaining and the failure to adopt the principle of more favourable treatment, renouncing the elimination of these and other grievous regulations of the Labour Code and labour legislation of the Public Administration.

There are those who are willing to do everything and mortgage the development of the Country, its sovereignty, to speak with those who are in the "front platoon" of the European Union, knowing that they will be the last ones to reach the finishing line. This thesis made a school of thought in the past and led us to disaster. Today, in view of the European Union of five scenarios, where the solution that counts is the one imposed by Germany, the thesis remains as guideline of a government incapable of liberating the country from ruinous impositions and asserting sovereignty.

This was seen recently in all financial sector processes. In BANIF with the imposition of its handing to the largest Spanish bank at bargain prices and with heavy costs on public coffers. This was seen in Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD), with the imposition of a financing solution with large speculative capital funds to finance the recapitalization at unacceptable rates, with unemployment and closing of agencies. We saw the handing of the Novo Banco to another American speculative fund, removing public capital from any decision-making role and the imposition of the ECB's postponement of the 30-year payment by the banks of the money from the settlement fund of BES - 4.9 thousand million euros! Millions that the country will hardly see.

The sale of the Novo Banco, which the PS government now wants to carry out, is an option defended from the outset by PSD and CDS. The sale of the Novo Banco is an option that undermines the country and the people and is therefore an option that the PCP rejects. All decisions aimed at integrating the Novo Banco into the public banking sector will count on our strength and our initiative. To sell the bank to private groups and pass the bill to the people, they know will have our opposition.

This is witnessed in the pressures and systematic blackmails to impose their solutions, other than those of the national interest. This is witnessed in these humiliating ECB proclamations demanding sanctions, now not in the name of an excessive deficit, but of a new pretext - that of the Procedure for Macroeconomic Imbalances, the new justification for conditioning any alternative policy other than cuts in wages, pensions, the rights of those who work, in the social functions of the state, in investment and development.

We, unlike those who accept the submission of the Country, affirm that Portugal is not doomed to decline and an increasingly subordinate position and subjection to the Euro and the European Union and its instruments of domination - the stability and growth pact , economic governance, the European semester, the Budgetary Treaty - institutionalization of policies of exploitation and impoverishment. That it is possible and pressing to have a courageous policy to hand back to the Country its economic, budgetary and monetary sovereignty. A policy that ensures and affirms the full right of the Portuguese people to decide their own destiny and to ensure the prevalence of national interests.

This is the great option to respond to the problems that remain - unemployment, precariousness, low wages and low pensions, insufficient levels of economic growth and the unfair distribution of wealth, and which have an answer in the patriotic and left-wing policy that we defend for the country.
It is the work carried out, the dedication and willingness shown by its elected representatives to serve the populations, its distinctive project, the guarantee of defence and strengthening of the local government itself as an emanation of the will of the populations, which make CDU the great national force of left in local government, indispensable and necessary to raise the quality of life of the populations.

The force that in each and every municipality of the Country and in each of the parishes of the national territory needs reinforcing with the vote of the Portuguese.

The vote that is the safest guarantee that it will be used to give expression and strength to intervention in solving problems and promoting local development and progress.

The vote that counts for those who expect new advances, new gains in incomes, rights and living conditions.
The vote in this force that brings together, that unites, that brings closer the possibility of building a Portugal with future.

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  • PCP
  • Poder Local e Regiões Autónomas
  • Central
  • CDU

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