Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the PCP, Public Session «150 years of the Paris Commune - fighting for the emancipation of workers»

150 years of the Paris Commune - fighting for the emancipation of workers

150 years of the Paris Commune - fighting for the emancipation of workers

Party of the working class and all Portuguese workers, fully at the service of the Portuguese people and Portugal, Party of freedom, of democracy, of socialism, patriotic and internationalist Party, Party for the cause of social emancipation of workers and peoples from all over the world, Party of the communist ideal and project, the PCP could not fail to commemorate this memorable event of the struggle of the workers' movement that was the Paris Commune.

150 years ago, on March 18, 1871, for the first time in history, the working class with its allies conquered power, proclaiming the Paris Commune and establishing a new government, of the people and for the people.

Against the background of the Franco-Prussian war and its profound consequences and in the face of the betrayal of the bourgeois government, which in view of the popular revolt leaves Paris and takes refuge in Versailles, the Parisian working class rises in a bold insurrection, organises the defence of the city against the threat of counter-revolutionary forces and the siege of Prussian troops, expels the big bourgeoisie from power and elects the Commune, raising the red flag of the struggle of the proletariat.

With the working class as its fundamental mainstay, which supported its government without fear and tirelessly, the Commune had an extremely broad base of social support, as well as the participation and creative initiative of the masses, with particular emphasis on the role played by women or by Marxists gathered at the International Workers' Association - the I International, created in 1864, with the particular and persistent commitment of Marx and Engels.

Despite adverse conditions and its short life, the Commune adopted important measures in the labour and social fields - such as the ban on the system of fines and wage withholdings by the bosses or the suspension of the payment of debts - and structural measures of a new, democratic and popular political power, such as the replacement of the standing army by arming the people, the separation of Church and State and the secularisation of teaching, the reopening and management by the workers of the workshops abandoned by the employers, the payment of government and of all administration employees at the workers' average salary - among other decisions that characterise its class nature.

However, faced with the military siege by the German and French armies, which join against the new revolutionary power, the Commune was forced, during its 72 days of existence, to assume its own defence as a primary task.

Promoting divisions and taking advantage of the Commune's hesitations and shortcomings - such as not having moved against the counter-revolutionary forces before they could regroup, not having placed the Bank of France at the service of the revolutionary process or having underestimated the importance of the alliance with the peasantry -, the Versailles army advances over Paris on May 21 and, despite the heroic and determined resistance of the Commune, it is defeated by the brutal violence of arms and targeted by the hatred and bloody revenge of the big bourgeoisie.

Marx, in «The Civil War in France», and Lenin, in «The State and the Revolution», learned important lessons from the Paris Commune, which constitute important developments of Marxism, namely regarding the theory of revolution, the role of the vanguard party or the question of the State as the central issue of every revolution, its class nature, and the need to conquer and build a new one.

The Paris Commune, that «attack on heaven» in Marx's words, had an enormous international repercussion, including in Portugal, where at that time there was a greater influence of the anarchist current, in relation to the Marxist current that was dominant in the International Workers' Association.

The example of class awareness and full commitment of the French revolutionaries, who fought and died for the cause of the liberation of the working class, for a better future for all workers, the demonstration of the possibility of seizing power by the proletariat, gave a significant boost to the Portuguese workers' movement and to the spread of Marxism in Portugal. The first exclusively workers’ associations date from that time, which in 1872 gave rise to the Workers' Fraternity and its membership in IWA.

The events of the Paris Commune took place 150 years ago, but the strength of its example and ideals has endured to the present, maintaining all the topicality. As Lenin pointed out, «the cause of the Commune has not died, it remains alive in each of us», «the cause of the Commune is the cause of social revolution, it is the cause of the full political and economic emancipation of the workers, it is the cause of the world proletariat. And in this sense, it is immortal ».

The new century that followed will arise not only with the victory of the October Revolution in 1917, and the establishment of a State in which, for the first time, power is exercised by workers and peasants, as it will be marked by profound social changes and advances in the process of the emancipation of workers and peoples, which will determine the course of the world.

With the constitution of the Soviet Union, the first socialist State, the victory over Nazi-fascism, the popular and socialist revolutions, the processes of national liberation and the end of colonial empires, the advance of the struggle for democratic rights in capitalist countries, were enormous achievements of historical and civilisational dimension made by workers and peoples.

Materialising the aspirations for which the Paris Commune followers heroically fought, the socialist countries undertook the construction of a new society free from exploitation and oppression, free from injustices and social discrimination, a new society that ensuring democracy in its economic, social, political and cultural aspects, aims at the well-being of the workers and people.

However great the campaigns of the heralds of capitalism to conceal, distort and slander the first experiences of building socialism, nothing can erase that the Soviet Union and the group of socialist countries put economic development at the service of the materialisation of the rights of their peoples, achieving the end of unemployment and poverty, the eradication of illiteracy, the universalisation of education, culture, sport, access to healthcare and social protection, or the unprecedented promotion of the rights of women, children, youth and of the elderly. Countries that launched themselves in the implementation of high forms of democratic participation, in solving national problems, in scientific and technical development, in promoting friendship, solidarity, peace among all peoples - changes and achievements that met the needs of deep, heartfelt and just aspirations of the vast majority of Humanity, of the exploited, of the oppressed.

We know that this great and thrilling process of revolutionary transformation of society has proved to be more complex and lengthier than foreseen, having to face tough tests and brutal clashes with imperialism and having been subject to delays, mistakes and distortions that led to its reversibility. However, as history and the current reality of the world attest, this does not negate the value and significance of the achievements of socialism and the advances in civilisation associated with it, nor does it call into question its superiority as a social system.

With the end of the USSR and other socialist countries in Europe, the ideological centres of capitalism proclaimed the end of history, and imperialism launched a violent onslaught to recover the positions lost during the 20th century and to impose its hegemonic world domination.

However, capitalism's cyclical crises are becoming more frequent and lasting. The growing financialization of the economy and the predominance of financial and speculative capital lead to a huge waste of productive forces. The rentier, parasitic and decadent nature of the system is accentuated. Inherent to capitalism, corruption and all kinds of criminal trafficking take place.

Corruption is inherent to the nature of capitalism and its logic of accumulation, either through an institutionalised form, as seen in fascism, or through the subordination of political power to economic power and policies to serve big capital, of the instrumentalization of the State to favour large economic groups and the network of interests and complicities resulting from it, an example of which is the revolving door between governments and boards of directors or the privatisations.

Fostering a growing and gigantic concentration and centralisation of capital, the world is faced with a violent intensification of exploitation and attack on social rights, with the resulting and brutal heightening of social inequalities and injustices.

The inhuman and criminal character of capitalism is laid bare by the hundreds of millions of workers thrown into unemployment and precariousness, by the denial of fundamental rights to millions of human beings, by poverty, by hunger, by child labour, by slave labour, by the exploitation of human beings for sexual purposes, by the drama that affects millions of displaced people, refugees and migrants.

At the same time, capitalism promotes the plunder of natural resources, worsens environmental problems, as well as subverts the potential opened by scientific and technical advances to serve its needs of accumulation and dominance.

In the same way, the system promotes the attack on freedoms and democracy, the whitewashing and trivialisation of fascism, fosters right wing and fascist forces, reactionary and anti-democratic conceptions, obscurantism, anti-communism, seeking to regress the awareness of the peoples regarding their rights, development alternatives and ways of emancipation.

Challenging the United Nations Charter and International Law and worsening the international situation, imperialism, particularly US imperialism, promotes the arms race, the militarisation of international relations, NATO and other attacking political-military alliances, as well as interference, sanctions, blockades, confrontation, aggression, war, aiming at striking the sovereignty and rights of peoples and the independence of States.

The contradiction between capital and labour, between the social character of production and the private appropriation of the means of production, between monopolies and non-monopoly classes and strata, or the contradictions between the main capitalist powers and between these and developing countries are heightened.

In this context, there is a complex process of alignment forces at a global level, whose dominant features are the relative decline of the global influence of the capitalist centre, and in the first place of the USA.

The Covid-19 pandemic has enhanced the trends that have characterised the evolution of the international situation and is being used by the system to intensify exploitation and attack on rights and freedoms.

The evolution of the international situation proves that great dangers of social and civilisational regression coexist with real potential for progressive and revolutionary advances and underlines the need to be prepared for rapid and unforeseen developments and, therefore, for resorting to forms of struggle that the evolution the situation will demand.

Capitalism, with its exploitative, oppressive, aggressive and predatory nature, with the heightening of its irreconcilable contradictions, with the deepening of its structural crisis, with the serious threats and huge dangers it entails, with its inability to respond to the problems of Humanity, demonstrates that it is not the ultimate system of History and that its revolutionary overcoming and the construction of a new society, of socialism, appears with redoubled topicality and necessity.

As the PCP has pointed out, the historical experience of the struggle of workers and peoples has shown, in its wealth and teachings - both in mistakes and defeats, as in successes and victories -, how extraordinarily complex, irregular and bumpy the process of social emancipation is, also demonstrating that the paths of the revolution, being diversified and following different phases and stages taking into account the concrete situation in each country, obey general laws, concerning the role of the working class, the power of the workers, the nature of the State, the social ownership of the main means of production, of planning or creative intervention by the popular masses.

In a more or less prolonged historical period, in diversified ways and in a process necessarily involving redefinitions and enrichments of the project, through the struggle of social and national emancipation of workers and peoples, it is the replacement of capitalism by socialism that, in the 21st century, continues inscribed as a real possibility and as the most solid perspective for the evolution of Humanity.

We commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune, now that we celebrate the Centenary of the Portuguese Communist Party.

The creation of the PCP corresponded to a historical need of the Portuguese working class, which resulted from the evolution of the Portuguese working class movement, from its experience and social and political awareness, in a context of revolutionary growth, under the international impact of the October Revolution.

These are 100 years of life and struggle of a Party that, learning from its own experience and that of the international communist and revolutionary movement, has always assumed and fulfilled its commitments to the Portuguese workers and people with enthusiasm, determination and confidence, for the universal cause of social emancipation, for which, 150 years ago, the Paris Commune fought.

This is due to the persevering and indissoluble bond of the PCP to the working class, to all the workers, to the popular masses, the fundamental base of its strength, which enabled it and enables it to bridge united the great changes and profound transformations in the national and international situation, to define and set guidelines, to assert itself as a great national party and play an irreplaceable role in the liberating struggle of the Portuguese workers and people and become a respected force in the international communist and revolutionary movement.

The PCP is the Party of the struggle against fascism, for freedom and democracy, of the struggle against colonialism and colonial wars, for the right to independence of the Portuguese colonies; the Party of the April Revolution, its achievements and advances and its resistance to counter-revolution; the Party of the struggle in defence of national independence and sovereignty; the Party of internationalist solidarity, of peace, friendship and cooperation with all peoples; the Party of the struggle to meet the most pressing and heartfelt demands of the workers and populations; the Party of the struggle for the break with the right-wing policy and for an alternative patriotic and left-wing policy, of the struggle for an advanced democracy linked to the values of April, of the struggle for socialism.

In evoking the Paris Commune and its emancipatory ideal, it is fair to highlight the significance and scope of the April Revolution in Portugal, which represented the conquest by workers and the Portuguese people of freedom, democratic rights, agrarian reform, nationalisations , worker control, democratic local administration, the democratic regime enshrined in the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic adopted 45 years ago, a revolution in which the PCP played a decisive role and which is inscribed as one of the most impressive pages in its history.

That is why in the last 100 years there has been no social transformation, no progress or conquest by the Portuguese workers and people that is not directly or indirectly associated with the initiative, the struggle, the action and the intervention of the PCP.

A patriotic and internationalist party, it is from the Portuguese reality and the Portuguese revolutionary experience in its multiple aspects and critically assimilating the world revolutionary experience, both in its undertakings and successes as in its mistakes and defeats, that the PCP points out to the Portuguese people, as its objective, the future construction of a socialist society in Portugal.

Continuing the struggle of the revolutionaries of the Paris Commune and their liberating ideals, the best fighting traditions and progressive and revolutionary achievements of the Portuguese people, its heritage of 100 years of struggle entirely at the service of the people and the homeland, the PCP affirms , before the Portuguese workers and people, its determination in the struggle for a society freed from exploitation, from which all inequalities, injustices, discrimination and social scourges are banned, and which ensures the people's material and spiritual well-being - the socialist society with communism on the horizon.