Statement PCP Central Committee

Communiqué of the Central Committee of the PCP - 17 June 2000

At its meeting of June 16 and 17, 2000, the Central Committee examined the main aspects of the social and political situation, made a preliminary analysis of the presidential elections, defined the main tasks for the forthcoming months and debated issues concerning the preparation of the PCP's 16th Congress to be held on December, 8, 9 and 10 of this year.

In this context, the Central Committee made a general assessment of the contributions by Party members during the sounding phase, which ran until the end of May; adopted a calendar for the various preparatory tasks; and, exercising the powers given to it by point 5 of article 27 of the Party Constitution, adopted the Regulations for the preparatory phase of the Congress (which corresponds to the period for debate throughout the Party of the documents proposed by the Central Committee and for the election of delegates).

I
The Government in serious difficulties

1. The Central Committee points out that the national political situation in the past few months is undeniably marked by a process of sharp erosion of the Government and of its base of support. This results from a considerable growth in popular discontentment towards its policies, due both to Government policies and decisions, which seriously affect the living conditions of the majority of the population and to the great, persistant and militant struggles by the workers and other social strata.

2. Since the Government was formed in November 1999, there has been a vast and complicated mass of difficulties, incidents, decisions and elements of discontent, which have been affecting the Government's image. But the truth is that determining factors in the rise of popular discontent were the obvious fact that the government delayed fuel price increases for electoralist reasons and to manipulate the rate of inflation, in order to influence wage negotiations; the serious and generalized prices increases which dramatically destroy the peoples' purchasing power, and the Government's inflexibility in imposing a policy of real wage reductions while continuing to give benefits to big business; the creation of a dire situation for tens of thousands families who have loans to buy their homes, as a result of the continuing rise in interest rates, which were aggravated by the Government's unfair decision to decrease the reference rate for bonuses in loans.

In the present framework, the attempts to hastily impose an ill-founded decision to co-incinerate dangerous industrial waste has also taken on a significant political relevance.

3. The Central Committee warns of several aspects of the economic situation, which the Government has tried to conceal, and which reflect a worrying situation.

There is a deterioration of the trade balance deficit, which in the first two months of this year alone rose by 140 thousand million escudos when compared with the same period in 1999 and which has grown, since 1995, by over one billion [10^12] escudos; the continual replacement of national production with foreign products; the reduction of foreign investment; the divestments from our country by several multinational companies; and the increased use of foreign credit to finance the economy. All this has been reflected in a deteriorating current accounts balance and capital balance.

The Portuguese economy, as a result of the policies, which have been carried out, has been enhancing its weakness and its dependent, peripheral and outsourced nature. Exports have been loosing market shares and the difference between the national and the European Union GDP growth - which has been used to measure the real convergence of the Portuguese economy with the Community economy - has been gradually decreasing: in 1999 it was 0.6 percentage points and the prospects for the future are no better. According to the Bank of Portugal's GDP forecast, there will even be a negative difference already in 2000, i.e., instead of convergence we will have divergence.

4. The PCP's Central Committee warns that the new privatization plan which the Government has just announced for the next few years represents a new step in the process of destroying what is left from the public sector. When the disastrous consequences of privatizations and the country's situation demand a change of course, the Socialist Party government, with its class policy at the service of big capital and the multinationals, points towards further measures seriously affecting the national interest.

What is at stake is a new and drastic reduction of the State's role in strategic areas for the country involving companies such as EDP [electricity], GALP (Petrogal [fuel] and GDP [gas]), Portugal Telecom [telecommunications], TAP [airline], several business units of CP [railways], Brisa [motorways], Cimpor [cement], Papelcer (Portucel Industrial and Soporcel [cellulose]), Mundial Confiança and Fidelidade [insurance] – thus amputating the CGD Group [banking]. This is reflected in situations ranging from the loss of a majority of State capital (EDP) to total privatization (Brisa and cellulose), and including multinationals acquiring controlling positions (clear exemples are TAP and GALP). If this plan is fulfilled, it will mean greater domination of the economy and the country's life by big economic and financial groups and by multinationals, and greater difficulties for workers's rights and interests, for price policies, for the quality and security of public services (as became evident duting the recent energy blackout which left half of the country in the dark), for the productive apparatus and for the achievement of a real national development plan.

The Central Committee accuses the Government of profoundly damaging the national and public interest, it points out the need to expose the consequences of this process and calls for increased resistance against its implementation.

5. A few days before the end of the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union, the PCP's Central Committee wishes to state that the exercise of this responsibility was mostly marked by a repetition of propaganda-style initiatives by the Government, for domestic and foreign consumption. None of the country's serious problems caused by Community policies and restrictions were mentioned in the agenda of successive E.U. ministerial meetings.

Namely, it must be stressed that the Employment Summit held in adulation of the “New Economy” was a major mystification, which mainly served to enshrine and give more impetus to demands for greater economic liberalization and deregulation, more privatizations, more “labour flexibility” and “wage restraint”.

It must be also underlined that the informal Council of Agriculture Ministers, held in Evora, resulted in absolute emptiness, as was evident in the final statement in which none of the huge and urgent problems affecting the Portuguese agriculture are referred to (discrimination of our country in the access to Community aid, insufficiency of milk quotas, loss of tomato quotas, etc.).

The Portuguese Presidency is also negatively characterized by the explicit support from Minister Jaime Gama and other Socialist Party leaders for the Federalist option, advanced by the German Foreign Affairs Minister, where the role of the Nation-States, in a future European Union, is approximated to the current role of the Lander (regions) in the German Federal State.

Continuing to fight against any new steps towards federalism, the PCP warns that the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) announced for December, with the stated aim of pursuing an institutional reform, represents major risks for the independence and sovereignty of the countries and peoples of the European Union.

It also warns that the European Union is in an accelerated process of militarization (articulated with the strengthening of NATO) and points to the need to pursue the struggle for disarmament, international cooperation and peace.

6. Contrarily to what the right-wing parties say, in a renewed confirmation that, in actual fact, they do not pose any political alternative to the Socialist Party, the main problem is not that the Government “does not govern” but that it governs in a way that makes it a willing prisoner to the cumplicities and favours of big business, with contempt for the situation, interests and aspirations of the workers and large strata of the population. In this way, it is ensuring, since 1995, a zealous continuity with, and strengthening of, the essential axes of right-wing policies.

II
A great struggle movement

1. The enlargement and intensification of the social struggle of workers and other social forces is one of the major facts of the political situation's evolution. Growing insatisfaction has given place to struggle (and its development) as a response to the Government's policy, to the ever-greater problems of the country and of work and living conditions. Due to their dimension, the broad participation of several sectors of our society and their fighting spirit and goals, the mass struggles have been a decisive element in changing the political situation, in clarifying the real nature of the Government's policy, and in discrediting it.

2. By trying to impose wage restraints and decreases, especially upon Civil Servants and the Public Sector and, at the same time, to increase prices and interest rates; by fomenting precarity as a solution for unemployment; by preserving injustice in taxation and fiscal rates on labour income; by keeping pensions low; by continuing to dismantle social services; by turning its “passion” for Health and Education into mere rhetoric; and by destroying the country's productive apparatus, the PS Government has became reponsible for the indignation and struggle of large numbers of workers and other social groups.

3. The struggles of civil servants; the powerful strikes in the transport sector and in many companies; the size, militancy and great participation of young people and women in the great march of March 23rd, and in the celebrations of the April 25 [1974 Revolution] and of May 1st, promoted by the CGTP-IN [Trade Union Central]; the Secondary school student's demonstrations; and the national actions of farmers in Évora; all these exposed the [Government's] “dialogue” without content and deceitful negotiations, and discredited the Government and its social policy, opening the way to very important results for the workers.

4. Since the beginning of this year, Portuguese farmers are fighting against the PS Government all over the country, with several struggles for the survival of small and medium agricultural properties and to defend national agriculture. Of particular relevance were the struggles concerning potato, milk and tomato production, animal health, common lands and against the closing down of small units (olive oil presses, milking rooms, cheese making places), for flexibility in income assistance and to keep farmers in the social security system.

All these movements converged in the massive national gathering of about 10.000 Portuguese farmers, and a further 5.000 Spanish farmers, once again saying “No” to the [European Union's] Common Agricultural Policy and to the World Trade Organization.

5. Students have unmistakably shown their dissatisfaction with Education policies that do not correspond to their yearnings and to the need for quality in public education. The recent struggles by Secondary School students rallied tens of thousands of young people, calling for the suspension in the revision of curricula, the end of the numerus clausus [restricting the number of students in public education], for sex education, for the improvement of human and material conditions in schools, as well as demanding that they be heard and take part in the decisions which concern them.

6. The PCP has increased its social influence, through its activity among the workers, clarifying the nature of Government policies, stimulating the struggle, and undertaking political and legislative initiatives. Of great significance, in this period, is the increase in the number of victories, votes and elected representatives of the broad-based lists in which Communists participated, in elections for Trade Unions, Trade Councils, Union Federations and Workers Councils in the Lisbon Subway, Carris [Lisbon buses], Lisnave [shipyards], Gestnave [shipyards], TAP [airline], Cimpor [cement factory], RTP [Public TV], EDP [Electricity company], Customs and Portugal Telecom.

7. The PCP, while blaming the Government for the growing social conflicts, will continue to stimulate and mobilize the workers to stand up for their interests and rights. The positive results which have been achieved in many sectors by the struggle have shown that it pays to proceed with, and intensify, this course of action. The stronger the PCP becomes, the more chances there are to open up a new course towards new policies, in accordance with the just yearnings and demands of the workers and of the social strata which are most affected by the current right-wing policy.

III
Pursuing the Party's intense activity

1. Stressing that the positive changes in the country's social and political situation are directly related to the Party's vast, diversified and intense activity in all spheres of national life, the Central Committee underscores the importance, despite the limitations of the forthcoming Summer period, of maintaining a high level of initiative and political activity by the Party, especially in relation to the workers' and communities' most heartfelt problems.

2. In this context, it is very important to continue giving the utmost importance to the promotion and development of the struggles of workers and other social strata deeply affected by Government policies. These can, and should, have a strong impact with the Trade Union march on [June] 19th in Oporto, during the meeting of the European Council.

It is also important to ensure the success of the “Festa da Alegria” [Party Festival] that will resume in Braga on July 7, 8 and 9, as well as to pay more attention to the hard work involved in preparing the “Avante!” Festival on September 1,2 and 3, the success of which is essential to strongly assert the PCP's role in a new period of struggles and important political challenges.

It is also important to guarantee active support and solidarity with the Party organizations and members, as well as with the CDU, in the Autonomous Regions of Madeira and Azores, in their valuable efforts to secure electoral growth in the forthcoming October regional elections, which is necessary to strengthen the demands for democratic policies of progress and social justice in those autonomous regions.

It is also important to proceed with the efforts to strengthen the Party, mainly through Organizational Assemblies (especially in grassroots organizations), the strengthening of Party organizations on the shopfloor and working places, the recruitment and organization of new members, giving greater responsibilities to Party cadres, ensuring contact with all Party members and involving them in the Party's life, materializing the sales campaign of “Avante!” and the national fund-raising campaign.

It is also important to continue and step up the campaign to raise awareness and mobilise public opinion against the Government's draft laws seeking to change the electoral system for Local Government and the Republic's Parliament. The PCP restates its clear opposition to the Government's proposal, which intends to put an end to the direct election [by voters] of the municipalities' Executive Councils, thereby ending pluralist representation in Town Councils, and anti-democratically replacing them with single-Party executives (which would also be extended to parish councils). This would pave the way for absolute power by the main political force and the absence of fiscalization – thereby also for impunity. The PCP will also firmly fight against the Government's proposal to create 99 single-seat Parliamentary constituencies (which, it is expected, would only be won by PS or PSD), and which seeks to “bi-polarize” even further the general elections, artificially creating an electoral dynamic which would decrease the parliamentary representation of the other Parties.

3. The Central Committee also made a first assessment of the forthcoming elections for President of the Republic, considering the current context of candidates, in which there are still uncertainties.

In this context, the Central Committee considers it necessary that there be a PCP candidate for President – to be announced in due course – which, regardless of future more precise definitions of goals and characteristics of such a participation in those elections, can ensure the presence in the electoral debate of the distinctive values, proposals and project of the PCP for the Portuguese society, thus contributing to strengthen the popular demand for a left-wing alternative for the country's policies.

4. The Central Committee considers it appropriate to stress that, with the growing erosion and discredit of the PS Government (which has not received any significant contribution from the right-wing parties), there are growing attempts at mystifying the political landscape, tending to reduce the “opposition” to the [right-wing] PSD and CDS-PP (the latter Party let through the last State Budget and its negative options), and deliberately concealing the firm and coherent left-wing opposition embodied by the PCP.

It is true that, after more than five years without a word from the PSD and CDS-PP concerning wage increases or workers' rights, the right-wing parties now try to take advantage of the people's demands and dissatisfaction.

But what is equally certain is that, they not only support the fundamental options of the PS Government from whose consequences they later attempt to take a distance, but also, that on several issues they insist on defending guidelines and solutions that show how much of their populist demagoguery is merely a verbal mask to conceal policies against the workers' rights and of social regression – an example of which is their campaign against the guaranteed minimum income.

5. In this context, the Central Committee restates that the alternative policy and the political alternative which the country clearly needs have nothing to do with the PSD and PP's proposals, nor with the long soap opera of their quarrels or understandings.

Regardless of whether or not there is a political crisis in the near future, the Central Committee stresses that the prospect of a left-wing alternative in the country depends above all on developing the social struggles and movement against the Government's policies; on transforming diversified feelings of discontentment into a conscious attitude of social, political and electoral condemnation of the PS Governments' policies and on the demand for left-wing policies; on the strengthening of support and share of votes for the PCP, as a decisive element to ensure that the Party can have a greater say in the new political solutions which the country needs.

IV
Towards the 16th Congress

1. The Central Committee confirmed that the 16th Party Congress will be held on December 8,9 and 10 of this year, in the Parque das Nações' Atlantic Pavilion, in Lisbon.

2. The Central Committee was informed about the assessment of the first preparatory phase [for the Congress], and concluded that, in a period of great activity, participation and initiative, and despite regional differences, the Party held a considerable number of meetings, with many thousands of participants. A significant number of opinions, contributions and issues were brought forth. They represent valuable input for analysis and in drafting the Theses which are to be submitted to the 16th Congress.

The discussions, proposals and issues raised by Party members in the first preparatory phase for the 16th Congress are, by and large, encompassed in the points of the “Working Paper” adopted by the Central Committee in its February meeting – both in terms of the elaboration, analysis or research which are proposed, and in terms of reaffirming and stressing policies. Thus, the Central Committee considers that the draft Theses must refer back to the major chapters and issues which structured that Working Paper, and namely to the following topics:

· international situation – analysis of the main traits of the international situation and its developments since the 15th Congress; capitalism today, its contradictions and limits, the process of “globalization”, the imperialist “new order”, NATO's strategic concept and the arms race, exploitation – new forms, the destruction of social rights and achievements, the struggle of workers and peoples against domination, oppression and exploitation and for social rights and achievements. The communist and revolutionary movement and other progressive and left-wing forces, socialism as the major goal of the communists' struggle and a major cause for the 21st Century.

· domestic situation – the Socialist Party Governments' policies; privatizations, the reconstitution of large monopoly groups, the strengthening of financial capital, domination by foreign capital, the growing subordination of political power to economic power, the economic and social situation, growing exploitation, the destruction and mutilation of the values of the [1974] April revolution and of the democratic regime; European integration, its evolution and consequences, the limitations and conditioning of national independence and sovereignty; the PCP's intervention in the various fronts of activity and the struggle for a new course of European construction, for the left-wing policies which Portugal needs.

· the mass struggle, the social organizations, political activity and initiative – the mass struggle and its decisive contribution to the process of social and political change; the determining role of the working class and of working people in the social front of struggle, the trade union movement, other workers' movements and organizations, the problems and movements of other social strata; minority rights; the political initiative, electoral struggles, the relations and complementarity of the mass struggle and the institutional and wider political struggle; the PCP as an essential force for a left-wing alternative, within a broader struggle for an advanced democracy, with socialism as the prospect for Portugal's future.

· the PCP, asserting its identity, on course for a stronger social, political and electoral influence – strengthening its organizational structure, in particular at a shop floor level, giving more impetus to its grassroots organizations, strengthening its links with the masses and the concern of our organizations and bodies for the problems of the workers and communities where they act, Leadership and cadre issues, recruitment, renewal and rejuvenation; the Party press, the ideological battle, financial policies, the national dimension of the Party and its project, the national context as the key arena for the communists' activity and initiative, within the framework of a stronger internationalist solidarity and co-operation.

3. The Central Committee considers that the present Party Program and Constitution are, by and large, up-to-date and valid, and has therefore decided not to propose changes to these documents.

At the same time, any changes that may be considered concerning Leadership bodies, which may reflect upon the Party Constitution, will be met with the necessary proposals by the Central Committee of amendments to the Constitution.

4. The Central Committee which is to be elected at the 16th Congress must retain the functions which the present Party Constitution envisages, although greater debate is necessary concerning its operationality with a view to fulfilling its role, and namely to ensuring “the overall guidance of the Party's political, ideological and organizational work”.

It is also considered that the characteristics of the Central Committee should be preserved, namely in terms of its size, which should remain similar, but no greater, than at present.

The Central Committee adopted a series of guidelines which should be observed in drawing up the list of proposed members for the new Central Committee to be presented to the Congress.

As for its composition, within the context of the necessary renewal, the new Central Committee, reflecting the nature of the Party, should continue having a large majority of blue- and white-collar workers, with a strong presence of the working class, guaranteeing the presence of cadres with a spectrum of know-how and experiences, the participation of both full-time and non-full-time Party workers, reflecting the geographical distribution of the Party, strengthening the number of women and young people, namely from the Portuguese Communist Youth (JCP), giving priority to proposals of cadres who are responsible for major sectors of the Party's activity, with strong or relevant activity in important areas of social or national life.

The Central Committee also considers it imperative that, in preparing the draft list, the broadest possible consultations be made, namely with those organizations where the cadres who are proposed as new members or who are no longer proposed as members of the future Central Committee are currently organized.

5. The Central Committee considers that the Central Leadership structure based on the Secretariat, the Political Committee and the Central Control Committee is adequate for the current phase of the Party's life, notwithstanding its composition, improved operationality and the necessary analysis and consideration of possible adjustments and improvements regarding the relations and complementarity of the various executive bodies and their relations with the Party's organizations.

6. The Central Committee considers that the [Party newspaper] “Avante!” and the [Party publication] “O Militante” must play a crucial role in informing and promoting the debate during the forthcoming preparatory phase, conveying events and opinions, stimulating our members' participation and contributions, opening up their pages, in accordance with rules that are to be considered and defined by the Executive bodies and the editorial boards of those publications.

7. The Central Committee adopted the Regulations for the debate within the Party and for the election of delegates to the 16th Congress, during what has been termed the third preparatory phase. They include the norms and regulations that must be observed by Party bodies and members, both during the debate of the documents which are to be presented by the Central Committee, and in the election of delegates.

8. The Central Committee stressed the importance of continuing to prepare the Congress, in co-ordination with the Party's active political engagement, with a view to asserting the Party's project, role and strength.

The Party has proved to be indispensable and irreplaceable in the Portuguese democracy, in terms of the number and significance of its political initiatives, of the decisive role which it has played in opposing government policies and in organizing the resistance of the masses to those policies, and of its defence of national interests.

Considering the political context of ever more serious problems for the country, the workers and very vast social strata, and the growing discredit of the Government, it is vital to promote and organize the resistance to Government policies. The preparation of the 16th Congress, in co-ordination with the Party's activity in the various areas of the country's life, is in itself an important means of extending the Party's activity, of promoting and strengthening its organization, of improving the operationality of its organizations, of promoting the study of national and international reality, and of strengthening the Party's values, ideals and project.

In renewing its vivid appeal for an active participation and mobilization of Party members in the preparatory debates for the 16th Congress, the Central Committee guarantees its firm commitment to ensure that it may represent a greater inner-Party democratic life, marked by creative analyses and by the debate of ideas, by a serene and respectful attitude towards diversity of opinions, as is necessary when seeking and finding the best guidelines and courses of action for the Party in the near future.

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