Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary, Conference «For a Portugal with a future! A patriotic and left-wing alternative»

Portugal needs an alternative policy capable of building a Portugal with a future

Portugal needs an alternative policy capable of building a Portugal with a future

Comrades

The proceedings of our Conference "Patriotic and left-wing alternative, for a Portugal with a future" are coming to a close. Here, the situation of the country and the great national problems in the most various fields have been analysed and solutions have been presented and put forward to respond to them.

This was an important initiative that updates, broadens and consolidates the vast catalogue of analysis on the national reality, the causes that have led to the country's weakening and decline, and the vast and much reflected heritage of proposals that the PCP has presented to the country and proposes to the Portuguese.

An initiative that highlights the capacity for proposal and achievement of a force, which increasingly affirms itself as necessary and indispensable, for the materialisation of a future project for the country and for a real change that has long been required and that Portugal needs.

Of this great national force that has always been on the right side to defend the interests of the workers, our people, national sovereignty and independence - the great political force that unequivocally fights for the right of the Portuguese people to decide sovereignly on their future.

A Party that, once again and in a context of painful economic and social degradation, took the initiative to contain the ongoing path of national disaster and immeasurably worsened by the action of foreign interference begun in 2011, accepted and approved by PS, PSD and CDS.

Similarly, it gave a decisive contribution in the last three years with its intervention and proposal to solve urgent and pressing problems, to restore living and working conditions, to restore the rights and incomes of the workers and people and to relieve the burden of a situation long marked by stagnation and economic regression, unemployment and deterioration of the social situation.

A decisive contribution that enabled us to embark on a path which, although very limited in scope, to solve the country's serious structural problems stemming from decades of right-wing policies and an aggressive, destabilizing and destructive European capitalist integration, proved that Portugal was not doomed to follow the course of systematic regression of the living conditions of its people as they had been imposing.

A contribution from a Party that once again proved that it fulfils what it says and that unwaveringly assumes its commitments to the people and the country.

A Party that knows the path that remains to be covered, what external conditionings and constraints one must face and overcome, whether to respond to aspirations and rights or to overcome the serious structural problems that the country faces, but faces with confidence and determination the future, because it holds a policy to go further and further - the patriotic and left-wing policy that the country's situation demands.

A Party ready to find the solutions and open the way to solve the underlying problems of national development that are dragging on, because the essential and most determining options of a policy that has long since revealed its bankruptcy and inability to respond to our chronic backwardness and the many serious problems remain postponed.

Yes, comrades, it will not be with the policies of the past that we can overcome serious structural deficits - productive, but also of energy, scientific and technological, and demographic, among others – and put the country really moving forward.
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It is not possible to continue to dodge the problems that do not find an answer in the right-wing policies of years and years of governments by PS, PSD and CDS, rotating and alternating governments, that they dream of coming back and restoring, as has been proved, their affinities , mutual connivance and convergence in the core areas of government action, tied to the same external constraints and conditionings of submission to the European Union, its Common Policies(agricultural, fishing and commercial) to the Euro and its Budgetary Treaty, to the interests and criteria of monopoly capital, whose interests they defend and want to leave untouched in terms of taxation, prices, definition of labour and social policies , and in terms of policies to protect and safeguard its dominance over the national economy. But also affinities, mutual connivance and convergence in the answer to the debt problem, this gigantic drain of national resources.

It is not by chance that in these three years on decisive and structuring issues PSD and CDS have never missed PS’s call!

No! There is no solution for the national problems or a response to the development of the country through the hand of PSD/CDS governments or PS governments bound to such structural options.

From PSD and CDS we only expect social and economic regression, liquidation of rights, plunder of wages and incomes and on the part of the PS what we know is that we can count on the same options that have prevented a full answer to the national problems in the past and also in the present.

To give more power to the PS, in this context of submission to national and transnational monopoly capital, to the dictates of the European Union and of its directory, would be to give more ground to right-wing policies, to step back in the defence and restoration of rights that were only possible precisely because the PS does not have the power that it aspires to and has been led to assume, even against its will.

Yes, what has been achieved, albeit limitedly, has been achieved because the PS did not have the votes to impose its own the policy, which it has always followed for four decades, alone or with the PSD and the CDS.

The option to defend the national interest requires a break with the right-wing policy. An objective that the PS refuses to materialise.

It demands the implementation of an alternative policy - patriotic and left-wing - to solve the fundamental problems of the country that find no solution and response in the current national and European policies.

They find no solution and response to the increasing weakening, dependence and subordination in which the country was and is placed. A country stripped of important instruments of sovereignty.

They find no solution and response to ensure and define sovereignly the development policies that serve the people and that the country needs, bound to the options of the European Union and subject to the constraints of the Euro, its rules, economic governance, European semesters, prior approval of Budgets, stability programmes, all of which are becoming increasingly constraining.

Since joining the Euro, Portugal has been one of the countries that have least grown and fallen behind most in the production of wealth and one that has lost most in economic and social terms by joining the Euro.

The Euro is a currency adjusted to the needs and interests of European high finance and major European economic groups, an instrument of political and economic domination over countries like Portugal, which has crushed investment and conditions our growth; imposed deterioration in public services, equipment and infrastructure; which has led to a growing loss of competitiveness of our economy; which raises the cost of our exports, replaces our production by imports, and ruins our industry and our agriculture; which promotes impoverishment; which stimulates external indebtedness, outflows of capital and financial speculation.

Portugal needs to be freed from submission to the Euro, a condition for national sovereignty and development. It needs to regain and take in its hands the monetary, financial, exchange and budgetary instruments to promote a development that takes into account its national realities - the solution and the answer that only the patriotic and left-wing policy and a government determined to materialise it, can provide!

But there is also no solution and response in the current national and European policies to serve the national interests and overcome the constraints and conditionings of a suffocating and unsustainable public debt. A debt that is, relatively, one of the highest in the world and has become a mechanism of extortion of public and national resources, and a deterrent on the development of the country.

A debt that grew as production declined and promoted the finantialization of the economy and stimulated speculation, privatisation, but also growing public monies to rescue bankers and their ruinous businesses.

The country cannot continue to bear the burden of an annual bill of about 7 thousand million euros just in debt interest and deal with so many problems, about 35 thousand million over the next five years, as estimated in the Stability Programme presented by the government to the European Union.

A huge sum added to the more than 100 thousand million paid since joining the Euro.

Renegotiating the debt is therefore the increasingly necessary and urgent response to free resources, put an end to this gigantic and permanent mechanism of theft of national wealth and essential resources.

Renegotiating the debt is indispensable to ensure the creation of conditions for greater and more effective growth, for increasing national production, for increasing investment and improving the living conditions of populations.

Far from constituting an isolated measure, the renegotiation of the public debt is an option of rupture and change, a patriotic and left-wing option, all the more necessary and urgent, and the implementation of an alternative path capable of promoting the country's development.

Just as there is no solution and answer in the current national and European policies to overcome the destructive consequences of the prolonged attack on its productive sectors and those resulting from the long period of economic stagnation which, since joining the Euro in 1999, placed Portugal among countries with the lowest average growth in the world.

The current levels of growth in the economy will not be positive, but modest, and still below the possible, in sectors subject to great volatility and in a favourable external environment, which will make it possible to recover the delays of many years. The small variations do not mislead the structural nature of the persistently negative evolution of our economy and our GDP since joining the Euro.

The degradation and liquidation of the national productive sectors are an undeniable reality and one of the main causes of the worsening problems that the country faces.

The weight of industry, agriculture and fisheries in the country's economy today represents less than a quarter of the wealth generated.

A profoundly negative development that with their privatisation seriously affected the national companies and strategic sectors.

Strategic sectors that are no longer at the service of the country's economy and development, but essentially at the service of the maximum profit of the holders of privatised assets.

A situation that has led to the growing dominance of large national capital and especially foreign capital over the country's economy and its strategic levers and which leads to a permanent outflow of thousands of millions of euros abroad in dividend payments, to the detriment of investment in the country , as our balance of payments shows. In 2017, almost € 11 thousand million left the country under various forms of capital into the shareholders’ pockets and large foreign economic groups.

This is a reality that our external relations make increasingly clear and worrying, as reflected by the worsening of the primary income balance, where the increase of dividends paid abroad between January and June of this year is evident - in the first half of the year, 7,078 million euros left our country in this way!

We have said that a country that does not produce has no future! And this issue that is strategic and prioritary has always been overlooked and continues.

Portugal has the largest food deficits in Europe. We are practically deficient in everything. The size of the deficit in the trade balance of foodstuffs, which reached nearly 4 thousand million euros in 2017, accounts for a third of our deficit in the balance of payments and is an example of the seriousness of the situation. A deficit that triples in the balance of goods.

Portugal needs a response and a patriotic and left-wing solution to the gigantic food dependency that our country has, which calls into question not only our food sovereignty, but national security itself.

Defending national production, guaranteeing a high national incorporation in the agro-food value chain, boosting consumption of Portuguese products, is the sure and right way to produce wealth and create jobs, to reduce imports and lessen the deficit of the food balance in a sustained manner.

This requires will and determination: the will to take advantage of all the multiple conditions of our fields and our sea to produce them; will to assume public investments in irrigation systems, storage structures, transformation and valorisation of national products; will to dynamize local markets of short circulation; to provide the Ministry of Agriculture with the human and technical resources to support small and medium-scale agriculture.
Determination to confront the impositions of the CAP and the Common Fisheries Policy, which do not want production here, so that what is produced in the leading countries is consumed here; to deal with the big distribution giants, who crush production prices to secure millionaire profits; to curb pesticide and fertilizer conglomerates, which impose prices and unfair conditions on producers.

Determination to confront the monopolies of food imports, which destroy national productions; to confront the great interests of the large agro-business of food and timber that take for themselves the largest share of public support.

Yes, Portugal needs a policy and a government that decisively promotes national production and its diversification, with the central objectives of full employment and support for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. An alternative policy that has as structuring vectors:

The role of the State with the recovery of the political and democratic command of the planning and development process and the dynamization, renovation and defence of production; to define and point out the guidelines of an authentic agricultural, fisheries and industrial policy, in articulation with the public and private sectors and to guarantee adequate prices of the factors of production (energy, communications, credit and insurance and others), cutting short the “revenues” of the non-tradable sectors.

Being a holder and manager of strategic assets of the productive area and manager of public monies, with an active policy of recovery for the public sector of the strategic basic sectors, namely in energy, telecommunications, transport, insurance and banking.

This sector carries with it a trail of corruption and fraudulent management that has sucked colossal public resources.

A situation that shows that credit is a good too important to stay out of public control. A banking system increasingly dominated from abroad to serve the interests that are not those of the country, or of the Portuguese.

Recent news coverage on banking institutions confirm PCP's reason for placing the financial sector at the service of the economy, based on criteria of rigour and national interest.

But also a different role of the State in responding to and overcoming delays in the planning and use of existing energy resources, affirming a policy of national sovereignty in the sector, which requires: the definition of a strategy, the basis of a National Energy Plan that reduces consumption and the energy deficit, with a programme of rational use of energy (transport, buildings, industry) and diversification of energy sources.

It requires the State to assume its role of authority and public control of the companies themselves in the various aspects of the sector and in the prospecting and registration of renewable and non-renewable energy resources. The establishment of a system of maximum prices for liquid and gaseous fuels and for electricity.

A different role of the State also in ensuring the existence of qualified human resources and a good Research & Development platform in innovation and technology.

The definition of a strategy and a plan for national production that ensures the basic needs of the Portuguese and the domestic market and boosts, intensifies and diversifies exports.

An export policy, not determined by internal devaluation (reduction of wages and user management of national resources), but by effective increases in productivity (not increases in labour times and shifts), growth in the value chain, and a diversified trade policy.

A domestic market revalued by the increase of wages and pensions, by public consumption and defended by a rigorous inspection of the imports, support for substitution of imports by national products and the easy access of the Portuguese to our production.

A productive strategy that, by promoting the effective reindustrialisation of the country with the development of traditional sectors and new sectors and the dynamization and modernisation of agricultural and fishing activities, will ensure strategic production: besides sovereignty and food security, medicines, iron and steel, cement , basic chemical products, among others, a good and sustainable use of national resources, especially mining, and a manufacturing industry that should occupy the territory with balance, add value and productivity, with array structures, incorporating national labour and raw materials .

Material production is the strategic and historical basis of any country. Only by producing one can guarantee the collective future of a sovereign and independent homeland!

But the answer and solution that the current national and European policies do not give, due to their own class options in favour of big business, to overcome the very serious social problems that have made Portugal an increasingly unequal, unfair and impoverished country as a result of this same policy which has intensified the exploitation of labour and the inequalities in the distribution of income, and a deliberate process of concentration of wealth that remains.

The evolution of the distribution of wealth in our country reveals deep social injustice: in 2017, wages represented only 34.6% of this distribution and capital income accounted for 41.6% of that wealth.

An evolution that shows that it is not enough to make the economy grow. It is the workers who produce wealth and it must be distributed fairly. And this demands more rights and salaries and the fight against arbitrariness and deregulation in labour relations.

Years after years of unfair distribution that led to 10% of the wealthiest in Portugal holding about 53% of total wealth.
The serious problem of unemployment, which remains at unacceptable levels, in a strict sense at 6,7%, but in a broad sense, in actual fact, represents 13,1%, and precariousness, this social scourge, expression of the policies of exploitation, that affects more than one million salaried workers and false self-employed workers in the second quarter of this year 2018, that is almost 23% of active workers, another dimension of labour exploitation in Portugal, which contribute to the growth of the more than 2 million Portuguese living on the poverty line as a result of low pensions, low wages and, in particular of the National Minimum Wage which covers 22.1% of the workers.

Portugal cannot continue to postpone the implementation of a genuine policy of valorisation of work and workers. An essential axis of the alternative, patriotic and left-wing policy, its implementation demands a break with the path of exploitation and the defence of workers' rights, the valorisation of wages, the right to stability and security in employment, a determined fight against precariousness, deregulation of working hours, and the elimination of the grievous norms of labour legislation.

A labour legislation that remains at the centre of the immediate combat, because the government insists on maintaining the caducity of collective bargaining, refuses to apply the principle of most favourable treatment, legitimises precariousness and adds new negative measures, and insists on deregulation of working hours.

Just as pressing is the combat for a general increase in wages for all workers in the private sector and in the public sector, including the National Minimum Wage, setting it at 650 euros on 1st. January 2019!

No! We cannot progress with the current national and European policy in the social field, and there is no answer and solution with this policy to tackle the situation of the serious fiscal injustice that remains, resulting from the unbalanced distribution of taxes between income from capital and income from labour.

A policy that bases its options on the false, and socially unfair, reasoning of the need to attract investment, to promote the tax relief of capital and property income, and increase tax on incomes of labour. A reality that was scandalous in the previous PSD/CDS government with increasing Income Tax brackets and rates while lowering rates on Income Tax for companies. An increase in the tax burden on labour income only now partially alleviated.

A policy that favours and is complicit with the evasion of big business on payment of taxes with the use of tax havens and fiscal engineering.

This serious problem that remains, and in an inadmissible magnitude, that a left-wing patriotic government and policies cannot ignore.

Hundreds of millions of euros of untaxed profits due to huge exemptions and tax benefits and so-called tax planning operations that enable large shareholders of large economic and financial groups to receive dividends through companies established abroad without paying taxes here. Several engineering tax schemes guarantee them minimum real Income Tax rates and, in general, do not exceed half the legal taxes.

Yes, we must follow another path! A fair fiscal policy is needed to alleviate taxes on workers and the people and strongly tax profits, dividends and financial transactions of big business.

Another path that also stops the drainage of the millions for PPPs, SWAPs and halts the continuing drain of public money to the banks.
Contrary to what António Costa said yesterday when he spoke of the State Budget for 2019 - in an apparent position of common sense - as far as the PCP is concerned, his proposals of increased spending have a counterpart in measures of increased revenue.

The PCP believes, for example, that on the high spending for tax-benefits for large companies, support for banks and the Novo Banco, PPPs, excessive payments to energy companies, swaps, a significant part should and could be channelled into public investment and to improve the standard of living of the Portuguese people.

This is the difference and not that of those that are presented as realistic and of common sense as opposed to unrealistic spenders, adventurers!

No! The opposition focuses between those who continue to place second the productive investment and the improvement of people's income and those who, on the contrary, place investment and a fair distribution of national income at the centre of budgetary policy options, like the PCP does!

But another path is also to respond and solve and overcome the serious problems facing public services with a social policy aimed at equality, dignity and well-being of the Portuguese, able to assure them their rights to healthcare, education, social security, housing, culture and transport.

The lack of investment and underfunding dictated by the deficit obsession, the policy of weakening, privatisation and closure of public services, which has dominated in recent years, deteriorated material, withdrawn human resources and deeply degraded the quality of the answer of public services and of the social functions of the State. This policy aims to commodify and transform rights into a business to serve just a few.

In healthcare, the offensive against the NHS, particularly worsened during the PSD/CDS government, with the transfer of care to the private sector, accompanying it with funding and human resources, has resulted in the weakening of the National Health Service, greater difficulties in access to health care for the majority of Portuguese, and the growth of the role and influence of capital in the healthcare system.

The feeble steps taken since 2016 were clearly insufficient to reverse the course of disinvestment in the NHS.

The struggle in defence of the widespread, universal and free National Health Service is an integral part of the struggle for better living and working conditions, which are indispensable for the promotion of health and for the development of the country. This requires a policy that, among other measures: puts an end to the transfer of State responsibilities to private groups, namely to end PPPs; ends the chronic underfunding of health facilities; eliminates user payments; promotes social, professional and wage valorisation of professionals working in the NHS; assigns family doctors and nurses to all Portuguese.
To the Portuguese who often face difficulties in accessing the healthcare they need and therefore become vulnerable to the rhetoric of the right wing political heralds, it is necessary to clarify that the intervention of each one in the defence of their rights is fundamental to defend access to healthcare and that it is not in the private healthcare groups that they will find the safe haven that is promised to them.

In education, common to successive governments in recent years is underfunding, abandonment of democratic management, social and professional depreciation of education workers, the elitisation of education with the deepening of social stratification when leaving school as in entering. Policies that violate the text and spirit of the Constitution of the Republic and the Basic Law of the Educational System.

The response and solution that is urgent with the implementation of a patriotic and left-wing policy is the reinforcement and valorisation of the public education system, democratically managed, endowed with the objectives, structures, programmes and financial and human resources that enable the materialisation of the right to education and learning, and to equal opportunity of access and educational success to all Portuguese, in compulsory schooling and at all levels of education, through a free and quality Public School that eradicates illiteracy; that ensures coverage of the country by a public pre-school network and establishes the interconnection between the objectives of education and social, cultural and economic activities; that contributes to increase the work qualifications of the Portuguese work.

Portugal needs other solutions and another response to the systematic weakening of the cultural fabric, which is increasingly vulnerable, precarious and underfunded, where there is a growing lack of accountability of the State and its elitisation, where the asymmetries between large urban centres and the rest of the country in the offer and access to culture, increasingly marked by commodification and cultural colonisation.

Other solutions and other responses that a patriotic and left-wing policy, which ensures, from the outset, the guarantee of the allocation of 1% of the State Budget for culture; the assumption by the State of a Public Service of Culture with adequate funding, assuming itself as guarantor of access to cultural creation and fruition throughout the country; a policy of valorising professionals of culture.

In Social Security, the anti-social animosity of the national and European right-wing policy imposed significant setbacks in the Portuguese social protection system, with changes to the pension system, unemployment protection, family allowance, social integration payment and other social benefits, lowering benefits, withdrawing rights, limiting access, while degrading Public Social Security services.

This situation has been mitigated by the action, intervention and proposal of the PCP in the last three years of restoring income and rights, as is the case, among others, the extra increase in retirement and pensions and the regaining and restoration of the Christmas Bonus, but where there is still a strong resistance to the fair restoration of rights, as witnessed by the aims of consolidating and deepening the imposed regressions, always with the recurrent justification of the sustainability of the system.

Sustainability which is ensured by an economic policy that promotes jobs and valorised wages and by financial strengthening of the pension system, complementing in particular the current system of calculating company contributions based on salaries with another system based on net wealth created by companies.

Portugal cannot go backwards on social protection. Portugal needs a policy that strengthens social rights, ensures decent social benefits and supports, ensures a public and universal Social Security system, and fulfils the obligation to support the most disadvantaged and unprotected people, namely the disabled, the elderly, children and their parents, ensuring the conditions to grow healthy and happy.

In housing, a constitutional universal right committed to the State, but that successive governments by class option made unviable. Thousands of families have no home or live in inhuman conditions, in parallel with a process of increasing summary evictions in recent years. A process fed by the banks and real estate funds, leading to the forced purchase of housing by a population without means and to concentration and real estate speculation

This is a situation that must be changed in order to materialise this essential human right committed to the State.

This is what the patriotic and left-wing policy defends and projects.

With the State playing the determining role in land policies, building, rehabilitation and rental policies, mobilising public housing real state for programmes of supported or conditioned rents.

But also combating speculation in order to mobilise vacant houses, placing them at the service of the people who need housing, and creating the instruments and means necessary for the promotion of public housing policies.

Response and solution to the existing situation in the transport sector, marked by a long process of liquidation and privatisation of all its sectors with serious implications for national sovereignty and offer of public transport.

An unsustainable situation which portrays years of disinvestment, abandonment and degradation of rolling stock, structures and infrastructure, pulverisation, break-up, disarticulation and alienation to private interests that led to a serious regression in the right to mobility of the Portuguese people and that condemns most of the country to a real “curfew”, leaving the only option of using own transport.

A response and solution that requires, as the PCP has long advocated, an urgent reversal of the policies and options followed. It requires a policy to ensure investment in public transport companies - alongside a policy articulated with the dynamization of the national productive apparatus- which actually responds to the needs of the population.

Response to the imperative need to reverse environmental degradation and the increasing commodification of nature and water.

Despite slight improvements in recent budgets with the hiring of Nature Watchers, purchase of vehicles and equipment, there is still a shortage of investment and material and human resources to ensure the protection of the environment and of nature.

As a result of years and years of attack, public structures in the area of the environment have lost workers, resources and skills, a situation that will be aggravated by the attempt to remove responsibility from the central State through the handing of management of protected areas to local authorities, jeopardising the cohesion of the policy of conservation of nature.

The decision-making centres of capital in the European Union invest in the commodification of nature and its processes and resources. This option is well illustrated by the European experience of trading carbon which has already demonstrated the ineffectiveness and the perversity of its instruments which aim for profit, accumulation of wealth and deepening of inequality, and by the directive on quality of water that defends the interests of transnational corporations and threatens public water, thus undermining an initiative aimed at safeguarding water and sanitation as a human right. Examples that demonstrate that only a complete political break based on a patriotic and left-wing perspective builds a State capable of defending nature, capable of developing a policy that places the natural wealth of the country at the service of the people and of national development and not submitted to monopoly groups.

Yes, we need another policy of environmental protection and land use planning and promotion of effective regional development, aiming at a greater territorial balance and economic and social cohesion of the various regions.

We need policies aimed at combating the current regional asymmetries that grow wider and that are urgent to stop, combating depopulation, economic and social desertification of the inner regions of the country.

The economic and social cohesion of the national territory has long been undermined as a result of national policies that weaken the productive sectors which should guarantee the way of life of the population. But also due to consecutive years of scarce investment in regional development and the systematic devaluation of the rural world, the result of a number of concrete policy options, but where agricultural policies play a central role.

Regions that are victims of increasingly centralised solutions to services, programmes and funds that make them increasingly fragile.

The response and solution today requires a broad range of regionally integrated and streamlined policies that only a patriotic and left-wing policy can guarantee.

It requires structural policies and development strategies capable of counteracting the ingrained tendency for uneven development inherent to the dominant capitalist system.

It certainly requires another agricultural and forestry policy, another vision to reindustrialise the country and the use of regional raw materials and commercial distribution networks.

It requires the use and boosting of all natural resources, namely agro-livestock, forestry, water, mining and energy, and tourism. It calls for a strong positive discrimination of public funds in the territories affected by desertification and for a consistent programme of public undertakings, in particular in infrastructure and development-enhancing equipment and productive sectors such as the road-rail network and the abolition of tolls.

It requires regional administration with regionalisation. Return essential public services in healthcare and education and other public functions. It requires compliance with public service obligations for transport, communications, telecommunications, energy.

Portugal also needs a policy that addresses the problems of women, ensuring that their specific rights are met and that equality is a reality.

The response and the solution of the problems of the country require a policy that assumes in full the defence of the democratic regime and the compliance of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic. A policy that guarantees citizens' rights and access to justice. A policy that ensures the effective subordination of economic power to political power, the fight and punishment of corruption, which ensures the security and tranquillity of citizens, which affirms a National Defence policy centred on constitutional principles.

A policy that assures and affirms the full right of the Portuguese people to decide on their own destiny and a foreign policy based on the diversification of relations with the largest number of countries in the world.

Comrades

In the presentations and in the diversity of the issues dealt in our Conference, it became clear that the problems and delays accumulated by years of right-wing policies remain in the Portuguese reality, condemning the country to economic backwardness, social regression and dependence.

Here it was shown that Portugal needs other solutions. It needs to follow a different path, different from the one that led to impoverishment and backwardness. It needs to embark on a new course with another policy, in rupture with the right-wing policy. It needs to ensure a consistent trajectory of development that is not limited or restricted to obtaining momentary short-term gains from a favourable environment, which we know to be volatile.

Here it was obvious that there is another patriotic and left-wing policy which the PCP holds, capable of ensuring the country's development, social progress, raising the working conditions of the workers and people, and affirming Portugal as a sovereign and independent nation.

The steps that have been taken, although limited, have been very important in the recovery and achievement of rights and income from the long offensive to which the workers and our people have been subjected. In each battle held there was the PCP and there it will be with its initiative, its proposals, its determination and its struggle to ensure progress in favour of the workers and people.

There it was and there it will be, where injustice remains and problems exist, supporting and fostering the struggle, forcing solutions and facing the resistance of a government that is not its government and in with which it has great disagreements in many of its decisions. Government that does not give the answer that was needed and was possible sustained in the convergence with PSD and CDS in what is structuring of the right-wing policies.

It does so knowing that the step taken to halt the brutal offensive and remove the most scathing and aggressive version of the right-wing policy of the country's governance was that which was required to serve the interests of the workers and the people.

It does so to create the conditions to take a new step forward in national political life, reinforcing the PCP and the struggle to pave the way for the materialisation of alternative policies and the political alternative that needs to be materialised and with it the solution of many problems that today are not resolved and are just cause for the discontent that is expressed in the protests and struggle of the workers and our people.

Life has shown how important this struggle has been and how important the action of the PCP is. Much of what has been achieved, with the contribution of this Party, has the decisive contribution of the struggle of the workers and people, without which nothing would have been possible!

This struggle is essential to materialise new advances for the restoration and achievement of rights, but also for the conquest of the alternative! That is why we salute the many struggles that have been fought and are under way by the workers and, being here in Setúbal, at the time when the dockers of the Port of Setúbal are fighting, we salute them and express our solidarity with their struggle against precariousness and for collective bargaining.

Many struggles that are inseparable from their broad-united class organisations, the CGTP-IN, their big trade union central and which had in the great and expressive national manifestation of last November 15, yet another example of the determination and combativeness of the Portuguese workers for the achievement of better living and working conditions.

But if life has shown the importance of the struggle and of each of the achievements and advances, it also shows that it is not in the sum of partial achievements that lies the real response that the country needs.

The political response that solves the underlying problems that block our development must be raised to another level.

The country needs a global, coherent and articulated response, based on a real alternative policy, capable of rescuing the country from dependence and guaranteeing to the workers and people a decent life, and building a Portugal with a future.

It is for an alternative project, for a patriotic and left-wing policy that we need to mobilise energies, bring together wills and action, and converge all those who aspire to a sovereign and developed Portugal.

An alternative project that calls for a deepening of the convergence and common action of all democrats and patriots, committed to fighting right-wing policies around a patriotic and left-wing policy.

It is the struggle for the implementation of a patriotic and left-wing policy and a government that carries it out that is on the agenda as the central and decisive question to give the answer that is missing to solve the country's problems.

An alternative project that, in its implementation, is inseparable from strengthening the political, social, ideological and electoral influence of the PCP.

Of this Party that shows every day that it is the force where lies the solid guarantee of the construction of an alternative path, capable of giving solution to the problems of the country!

Much of what has been achieved to date has only been possible in a correlation of forces in which the PS does not have a majority government to implement its own programme.

If it were possible to form a majority government of the PS, if different was the correlation of forces in the Assembly of the Republic, let there be no doubt, many of the advances achieved would not be fulfilled.

To be aware of this is to understand that to go further, overcoming the obvious contradictions of the current political options of the government party, it is necessary to give more power to the PCP.

To all those who aspire to see a patriotic and left-wing policy in the country materialised, we appeal to you, come with us, to open up this path of construction and materialisation of the true political alternative - the patriotic and left-wing alternative!

To all these Portuguese, we reaffirm the readiness of the PCP to continue to debate, act and fight, deepening these paths of the construction of the alternative, around a patriotic and left-wing policy.

The construction of the alternative will not be done only with the PCP, but will not be possible without the PCP.

It is in the hands of the workers and the Portuguese people to open the way and materialise the Portugal to which we are entitled.

The PCP is here to take on all its responsibilities as a driving force for an alternative policy and a political alternative, an integral part of an Advanced Democracy, an aggregating force of democrats and patriots, a driving force for explanation and struggle, a force for action, hope and confidence.

It is possible to materialise it if we have, as comrade Alvaro Cunhal said, a great tactical flexibility and a great strategic determination, linked to the workers and people, strengthening the Party we have, the Party we are.

Long live the Portuguese Communist Party!

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