Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General-Secretary, Public Session “Defending, restoring and conquering rights - Fighting for patriotic and left-wing politics”

It is in the struggle of the workers and the people that lies the decisive condition to continue on the path of defense, replacement and conquest of rights

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Votes for a good year of 2018 for all of you and for our fight!

We have just entered the New Year and this means that we are already in the second half of the legislature that began in October 2015, and that has led in a new phase of national political life.

Looking back at the evolution of these two years, despite the set of contradictions that remain and that have conditioned and continue to condition the necessary response to solve the great problems of the country's development and to raise in a more substantial way the living conditions of the Portuguese people, we cannot fail to value the results of the struggle of the workers, our people and our Party.

These results have already been translated into the restoration and conquest of important rights and income extorted in recent years from the workers and the people, on behalf of the Euro Covenants and particularly in the early years of this second decade, with the imposition of the negotiated Aggression Pact between PS, PSD and CDS and the IMF, EU and ECB. These results are a contribution that cannot be underestimated, not only for what they represent of advances, even if we consider them still limited, but also for what they mean by reversing and stopping an offensive that was proving more and more brutal in its purposes of exploration and the impoverishment of our people and our own country. We have stated that we should look not only at what has been achieved but what we would face today if the role and initiative of the PCP had not been decisive in stopping the action of the PSD/ CDS government.

These advances have become possible only with the change in the correlation of forces in the Assembly of the Republic, in a context in which the parties of the previous PSD/ CDS government are placed in the minority by popular vote and the PS was not able to majority government. That was a change in the balance of power that has allowed the PCP and the PEV to play a greater role and conditioning policy options.

It was this role that, with the contribution of the struggle of the workers and the people, we exercised, and which has allowed such advances, shifting the scale of the measures in favor of the workers and the people and the development of the Country.

This is not an unfounded statement. It is the finding of an irrefutable fact. What has been achieved goes beyond what the PS government admitted in its electoral and government programs.

This was once again evident in the debate on the State Budget for the year 2018 that is now beginning – the third State Budget of this new phase of national political life.

A Budget that takes new steps along this same path of restoration, defense and conquest of rights, new advances inseparable from the contribution of our Party and, of course, the struggle that has been developed by workers and populations.

It is true that the country's situation, the extent of the problems accumulated and the structural response the country needs do not meet the full response required in this Budget.

Despite being a budget that is still far from responding to the necessary response to recover the levels of degradation of living conditions and far from taking the necessary steps to the country's fundamental problems, this does not devalue what the State Budget incorporates of new advances.

It consolidates and confirms what has been achieved so far, and further steps are being taken in a sense favorable to the rights and interests of the workers and the people.

Those advances and measures only go no further because the PS government remains tied to options and commitments that limit and prevent a more substantive response to the structural problems of the country.

But if this is so, it is also necessary to record what could be restored and conquered, and the meaning of the answer that could be given to the problems of the workers and the people.

Just keep in mind what certain circles of commentators and analysts have said about the State Budget that is now starting to apply. They only saw sins in this Budget. The new advances are afflicting them. But it afflicts them even more what they define as expenditure that consolidates and that stays for future as gains either for workers or pensioners. The PCP's contribution to further progress was, it must be said, truly decisive.

It’s a contribution that goes beyond the value of our intervention in the field where it was possible to improve the Budget with more than 40 proposals approved among the 125 proposals that the PCP Parliamentary Group presented. What is most decisive and important is that the Budget for 2018 has already been included in the Budget Proposal with the intervention of the PCP. Those that are three of the most important brands in this Budget are inseparable from the action and insistence of the PCP:

The new extraordinary increase of pensions;

The reduction of the tax burden on workers and pensioners with the construction of two new levels and the increase of the so-called “minimum of existence”;

The unfreezing of the progression of careers, which together with the replacement of the value of extraordinary work, night work and quality hours, continues the elimination of the rights restrictions imposed by the PSD and CDS.

To which should be added two important measures, which were assumed as commitments by the PCP and implemented in the specialty - the elimination of the 10% cut in unemployment benefit and the increase in the tax on large profits (state pay from 7 to 9%). The OE for 2018 is worth for what it re-inscribes, so it extends the advances adopted in 2016 and 2017 and by the expression that they acquire many of the progress made. There are many proposals put forward in the Budget for this year which will address the problems of workers, pensioners, young people and other sections of the population.

In the area of ​​social aid, it is stated among other things: apart from the elimination of the 10% cut in unemployment benefit which benefits more than 90,000 unemployed, widening support for the long-term unemployed, counting compulsory military service for reform, strengthening support for people with disabilities.

Also in the area of ​​the rights of those who work, it was consecrated in addition to what we have already mentioned regarding the unfreezing of the progression of careers that will benefit more than 400 thousand workers and the question of extraordinary work, the revision of the salary scale of the operational assistants was consecrated; the elimination of obstacles to teachers’ progression and the return of the right to the Christmas subsidy in full in 2018. This achievement, under the pretext of the troika, was eliminated by disguising the cuts in salaries and increasing taxes by means of the twelfth.

The new extraordinary increase in pensions means that over two years more than 1 million pensioners have an accumulated increase of more than 22 euros and around 900,000 pensioners, more than 13 euros.

In the area of ​​fiscal policy we have taken further steps towards greater fiscal fairness with our proposals. In order to better and quantify, the creation of the two new IRS levels has been guaranteed a tax relief for 2 million and 800 000 people who will have an effective tax reduction in 2018, which can amount to 198 or 293 euros per person, depending on whether apply the 2nd or 3rd stage, and with the increase of the “minimum of existence” we have the exemption or reduction of the value of the IRS up to 480 euros for another 190 thousand workers and pensioners.

In addition, the elimination of the IRS surcharge and increased taxes on companies with profits over 35 million euros.

We also mention proposals to respond to problems in other areas with an impact on the productive sectors, such as the agreement that the costs arising from the social tariff for natural gas should no longer be borne by the group of final customers or that which guarantees the reduction costs of statutory audit for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Of note, we also have the measures consecrated in the defense and promotion of public services.

Particularly important was the approval of the proposal of the PCP to exclude from the captives investments in the areas of health, education and transportation and enrollment from the survey of the needs of hiring workers for public services.

But also the freezing of court costs and health, among others, the increase in the number of health care units in the community. Also in the field of improving access to education and culture, progress has been made with the proposals of the PCP approved, in particular with the enlargement that ensured the free textbooks for 200,000 students in the 2nd cycle, covering the first six years of schooling benefiting a total of 555,000 children; with the reduction of the number of students per class; strengthening the means of special education. The conditions of pre-school public network rooms were also an improvement; with the cultural heritage emergency program and the approval of the proposal to reduce VAT for musical instruments. In the framework of the Integrated Firefighting Program and the 44 proposals of the PCP, in support of the victims of fires, forest protection, valorization of family and rural agriculture and promotion of regional development, 10 were approved.

But if this set of measures of advance is not negligible, it does not elude a central question: the State Budget for this year 2018 is a budget under the responsibility of the PS government. It is a budget conditioned by the option of the PS neither to face the impositions of the European Union, nor to break with the interests of the great capital and that this prevents how it was necessary to go further. Other necessary and indispensable measures have not yet been achieved, such as:
- The extension of the family allowance to children over 3 years of the 4th stage and their universalization to the 5th and 6th stages; - The taxation due on movable assets, the mandatory inclusion of income, capital gains and dividends; - A level of public investment capable of ensuring the country’s development.
There remain many other limitations within and outside the State Budget which are explained by the PS’s options to maintain its commitments to large capital and the European Union. The option of the PS government to submit to the Euro and refuse to renegotiate the public debt, eliminate public-private partnerships, or promote fiscal justice are obstacles to improving the people’s living conditions and the country’s development.

And that is why it is necessary to continue the struggle to break with the right wing politics, to respond to the structural problems of the country and to demand the concretization of the measures and possibilities opened in the State Budget. And that is why it is necessary to continue the struggle to respond to the structural problems of the country and to demand the concretization of the measures and possibilities stated in the State Budget and others that are beyond those that are enshrined in this instrument of State.

This struggle will continue in an evolutionary framework that is even more complex and contradictory in this year 2018, as anticipated by the development of the campaign and by a concentrated and coordinated attack of the forces of the great capital and the more conservative political sectors and reactionary policies aimed at paralyzing any action to valorize the living conditions of the people and the country, and prevent further progress.

A foreseeable scenario of contradictory evolution, first of all for the maintenance of the PS government’s political options limiting the solutions needed to overcome the country’s fundamental problems, as evidenced by its practice of understandings in structuring matters with the PSD and the CDS , as well as in the fixing of the commitments with the monetary policies of subjection to the Euro and of being submitted to the orientations of the European Union, as well as in the most structural options of the economic policy and that aim at guaranteeing the untouchability of the positions and dominion of the monopoly capital in the strategic sectors of the social policy, with a view to consolidating the setbacks imposed by labor legislation, in the areas of dismissals, working hours, collective negotiating, but also in terms of wages.

Sympathies that sectors linked to the great interests of monopoly capital push and pressure, mobilizing all their important resources, where they weigh their positions in the great media that dominate in the field of editorial guidance and commentary, but also their influences and links to sectors parties that are transverse to the parties that have taken back in the power in the last years. The direct appeals of the CIP and other representatives of big capital to the "”liberation of the PS government from the dependence of the left”, essentially claiming from the PCP, the elaborate constructions of the economists of the system to deny the role of the policy of recovery of income in growth announcing it as the antechamber of a new rescue, the lies, the false news that proliferate, the violence of the campaign to discredit the policy of restoring rights and income, identifying it as paymen to to clients - pensioners, workers and other sections of the population - undermined by right-wing policy as mere clients, are features of an offensive that is intensifying and which has a wide political aim, with parties attacking PCP in particular. Their first and foremost objective is to put an end to the process of restoring rights and restoring justice due to the workers and the people who have opened up to the new phase of national life, and to prevent any other path than the maintenance of the political matrix of the right.

The idea that with the measures taken in this last State Budget the accounts are settled, as well as the one that affirms that it is not possible to return to the past of 2011 and to recover what was lost, they are inserted in this first and priority objective of the conservative and retrograde forces which must be tackled with determination on all fronts of political and social action, giving strength to the struggle of workers and people for better living and working conditions and strengthening the political initiative of the PCP at the institutional level with denunciation and with proposals for measures.

These measures go beyond those enshrined in the State Budget, such as the valuation of labor and workers, in particular the repeal of labor laws, the Labor Code and labor law of the Public Administration, namely the collective negotiating and reinstatement of the most favorable treatment, as well as the replacement of the rights in question. But also the general increase in wages and the National Minimum Wage!

The minimum Salary, whose proposal to increase to 600 euros beginning this January, was also rejected by the PS. A proposal that, contrary to what is meant to be believed, was not unrealistic!

It was indispensable for a fairer distribution of wealth and was justified, even more so now, when there is an increase in the prices of essential goods and services, from public toll transport, bread to housing rent, postal service to bank commissions, among others. For the PCP, the price increasing of essential goods and services are a concern given their significant weight in family budgets. Here too, the PS Government’s options are to remain linked to the constraints imposed by the EU and the great capital that affects the living conditions of a large part of the population.

This is an example of the serious situation of essential public services, such as public transport, the dramatic degradation felt daily by the population, particularly in metropolitan areas where service is worsening and prices are increasing or in the postal service, for example the refusal on the part of the government to recover the public control of CTT when a company is destroyed, in which the economic and financial group that controls it has exponentially increased the tariffs but has drastically worsened the service and the wealth of assets, preparing to close dozens of service stations and lay off a thousand workers. But we could also talk about the energy sector and the energy costs, namely the lack of compliance with the State Budget Law with regard to the reduction of the price of bottled gas. As with the need to reduce electricity costs for consumers, this is a matter that the PCP has consistently insisted on, because there is a lot to cut back on the large profits of EDP, REN and other electric power companies. By integrating in the cuts the funds illegally obtained in the CMEC, the so-called revenues, transposing to the electric the costs of the Tariff Deficit, eliminating the costs of the Power Guarantee. It is not possible to assess the consequences of these increases by ignoring the policy of decades in which successive governments have privatized sectors of our economy and the public service by handing them over to large economic and financial groups.

In spite of all the existing constraints and with which it is urgent to break, it would have been possible, other than the government’s options, to prevent a 2.5% increase in the cost of public transport, to extend price regulation to the entire electricity sector, and impose a global downturn at the expense of corporate profits, curb further increases in the costs of banking services, and freeze a significant portion of the costs of public services rendered. Today, it is increasingly clear that in order to continue to make progress in the restoration of income and rights, in the achievement of new conquests and in giving new and more substantial and firm steps in solving the problems of the country, which are far from being solved, we must strengthen the PCP and the struggle of our people. Yes, the more strength the PCP has, the more the country advances, better living conditions will be guaranteed for the workers and the people, and for the development of the country.

The contribution made by the PCP is visible, without which the essence of what is achieved would not have been possible. But without devaluing advances, it is clear that another policy is needed to provide a structural response to the country’s structural problems. The country’s long-standing problems persist and continue to condition its life and development, particularly structural weaknesses and deficits, exacerbated by the continued loss of instruments of sovereignty and the lack of a development option based on the affirmation of sovereignty and independence. The delays and weaknesses of the productive apparatus, as well as the need to raise the quality of employment and economic growth, the lack of public services, the daily drainage of tens of millions of euros abroad in dividends and interest, the low wages and precariousness, injustices and social inequalities, are expressions of a reality that demand different political responses from those that have been applied in the country in recent years and which the current PS government essentially maintains.

Portugal does not need to reinvent itself. It needs yes, to follow a different path, in breach of right wing politics.

Portugal needs a policy in rupture with the revenues and ways that sank the Country and with a vision and objectives opposed to those that led Portugal to the decline and impoverishment. A policy that frees the country from the constraints that smother it and block its development: an unsustainable debt, submission to the Euro and monopoly groups. It needs a policy capable of overcoming its structural deficits- the productive, the energetic, the scientific, the food and the demographic, which are the causes of its prolonged decline.

Portugal needs a patriotic and left wing policy and that PCP affirms itself as the great force carrying alternative policy that the country needs. It is by affirming the need for this patriotic and left wing alternative policy that we continue to develop our action and intervention, in close connection with daily life, and the permanent struggle we fight for raising the living conditions of workers and people. But it is in the struggle of the workers and the people, now in better conditions to develop given the change in the correlation of forces, that lies the decisive condition to continue on the path of defense, reposition and conquest of rights and demand for another policy that answers fully to aspirations and ensure the sovereign development of the country.

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