“The role of Communists in the struggle for the Parity and emancipation of Women”

Contribution of the PCP, by Telma Capucho,at the International Seminar held in Brussels, 26th March 2010.

Dear Comrades

1 would like to thank the Communist Party of Greece the invitation to participate in this meeting evoking the 100 years of Women’s International Day and, in the name of the Portuguese Communist Party, to salute all the parties and comrades present.

This year, the PCP, celebrated Women’s International Day by participating in the vast program of actions organized by the women’s democratic movement and held also several own initiatives, among which we would like to point out the one hundred actions of contact with women, specially focused on the working women.

In these actions, the PCP called upon the Portuguese women not to conform with the worsening of their living and working conditions and with parity yet to be accomplished, but on the contrary, to fight for their aspirations and rights.

In line with the reasons which were at the root of the proclamation, a hundred years ago, of Women’s International Day, the commemorations of March 8th led to the expansion of women’s intervention, namely of the working women, as active subjects of the struggle against the right-wing policy carried out by the Socialist Party and the demand for a policy that puts into practice parity in law and in life.

The evolution of the women’s situation as a result of the right-wing policy is marked In Portugal, by the persistence of discrimination in several fields and the repeated non compliance of the legislation that recognizes parity. Adding to this, presently, we have the effects of the economic crisis and its perverse use by the Portuguese government and great economic power to justify and impose new sacrifices on the workers. In our country, exploitation and poverty have a strong feminine face.
The truth is that in a context of denial of rights, there is neither justice nor parity.

In the working world, the degradation of the socio-professional status of women worsens, with the intensification of the work rhythms and the devaluation of wages; the increase o f the numb er o f women who work on S Saturdays (3 6 % of employed women workers); the increase in night work (from 7% in 1998 to 13% in 2008); and the situations of violation of the right to maternity and paternity.

Thousands of women of different ages and professions, after several years of professional activity, have been unjustly removed permanently from access to work due to dismissals, closure of companies, long term unemployment or early retirement, and are left with occasional and precarious professional activities, always associated with diminution of wages and loss of labour rights.

Labour precariousness is a social scourge affecting women and young female workers. The greatest sign of denial of labour rights is expressed in low wages, unpaid overtime, night work paid as day time or the absence of rights in cases of maternity and paternity.

Women’s low wages and wage discriminations are inseparable from the aim to reduce labour costs and obtain more pro fit on the part of big employers and financial capital.

In Portugal the parties of the right-wing policies (Popular Party; Social Democratic Party and socialist Party) agree over the guidelines of international capitalism, namely in the context of the European Union, in order to deregulate labour relations, professional segregation of women and the widespread labour precariousness for all workers.

They propagandize a balance between professional activity and family life, but what is underway in Portugal is a legal cover that allows big capital to use the “Labour Code ‘ ‘ to increase labour precariousness and increase work time to 1 2 hours a day and 60 hours a week, together with a strong attack against the public sector and the social functions of the State.

The prolonged political and anti-social offensive is associated to a very strong ideological offensive by successive governments, either of Socialist Party, or the right~wing parties, with the aim of weakening the struggle of the women in defense of their rights and undermine the unity of the struggle of women and the struggle of all the workers and populations for a rupture with the right-wing policy.

In this ideological offensive — often embraced by other political forces and movements situated in the area of social-democracy by overemphasizing the gender issue in detriment of the central issue of class conflict — they try to create the illusion that women are a group of people with exclusive interests, united by an inequality that derives from belonging to the same sex, ignoring, or trying to hide that injustices and discriminations are born in the division of society in classes, between exploiters and exploited.

Comrades,

As the History of the struggle of the Portuguese people shows, it is the great social and political changes, the leaps forward in the emancipation struggle, as was the case of the Portuguese April Revolution, that ensure forward steps in the conquest and materialization of the rights of women. This is why we do not separate the struggle for women’s rights and parity in law and in life from the struggle for a rupture and a change in our country, in the context of the struggle for an advanced democracy for Portugal, an element and stage in the construction of socialism in our country.

Fuli parity in law and in life for the women of the working classes is impossible to achieve under capitalism , who se basis lies on ‘ ‘production’ ‘ and ‘ ‘perpetuation’ ‘ of exploitation, injustice and discrimination. Without abolishing the way of capitalist production it will not be possible to fully ensure economic, social, political and cultural rights and change the social condition of the women of the working classes.

In the year we cerebrate the centenary of Women’s International Day, Clara Zetkin’s statement remains actual and continues to be a guideline for the struggle of the Portuguese communists, in this dawn of the 2 1 st century: The emancipation of women, as well as that of ail human kind, will only be realized on the day that labour emancipates from capital. Only in a socialist society women, like all other workers, will gain full possession oft heir rights».

Comrades,

The PCP carries out an intense activity putting in practice the guidelines of its 1 8th Congress — held in 2008 under the slogan, For April, For Socialism, a Stronger Party.

These guidelines and policies are the necessary answers to face and invert the serious situation Portugal faces in the economic and social fields, and also in the field of freedoms, of rights hardly conquered with and following the 1974 April Revolution.

These are guidelines that regarding the national framework demand a rupture with the right-wing policy and the construction of an alternative, patriotic and Left policy, to withhold women s rights and their participation on equal terms in all spheres of life

A rupture with the right-wing policy for which it is determining the strengthening of the mass struggle, closely associated to the reinforcement of the organized struggle of women and of the role of women’s democratic movement.

Women’s movement which, in its diversity, finds in the further organisation of women in the Trade Union movement its most combative and strongest component, including the specific claims of women in the wider struggle of the workers : for wage increases, for employment with rights, in defence of collective bargaining, in the right to be mother and worker.

Women’s movement which finds in the Democratic Movement of Women (MDM), the oldest organisation of women in Portugal, a member of World Democratic Federation of Women, an organisation deeply rooted to the life of women and their struggle, but also with strong activity in international solidarity. This year, MDM will hold its 8th Congress which will represent an important affirmation of the Portuguese women’s struggle.

The communist women play a fundamental role in the organized struggle of women, in the reinforcement of women’s movement to increase their demanding capacity, in their participation in mass movements, in the analysis of the social situation and transformation of society.

To the PCP, the emancipating struggle of women will be more successful the more it articulates with the wider struggle against the right-wing policy and for social progress and the more solid and coherent their organic bases are.

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