Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the PCP, Session «90th. Anniversary of Avante!»

90th Anniversary of «Avante!», the newspaper that gives voice to the organised struggle of the workers and popular masses

90th Anniversary of «Avante!», the newspaper that gives voice to the organised struggle of the workers and popular masses

Today we mark the ninetieth anniversary of the Avante!, the central organ of the Portuguese Communist Party, which is proud to say that, in its long life, it fulfilled its role as a class-oriented newspaper, an irreplaceable weapon of the PCP to serve the workers and the people, without ever allowing itself to be subjected or intimidated by the terror of the fascist dictatorship or by the many attempts at silencing by the dominant ideology and powers.

The Avante !, is a communist newspaper where you can read what cannot be read in any dominant media body, where you can understand what the PCP proposes and what it defends, how it is organised, how it carries out its collective work, how it mobilises its militants, workers and people for the daily battles.

A newspaper which is free and independent of the power of the big economic and financial groups that control the majority of the mainstream media, the central organ of a class-oriented Party, the PCP, which gives voice to the organised struggle of the workers and popular masses, not only for their legitimate rights, but for the construction of a society which eradicates the exploitation of man by man, the socialist society of the future.

The Avante! was born on February 15, 1931, following the 1929 reorganisation of the PCP, which, with Bento Gonçalves as General Secretary, had turned the PCP into a Leninist Party, prepared to face, underground, the long and dark fascist night. Exactly 10 years after the founding of the PCP.

Between 1931 and 1941, Avante! had an irregular life dictated by moments of great circulation (over 10,000 copies came to be distributed), inconsistent in frequency - sometimes weekly, sometimes fortnightly or monthly and with moments of interruption - but, from 1941, with the1940-41 reorganisation of the PCP, which would create the conditions for the transformation of the PCP into a great national Party, the great Party of resistance and motor of anti-fascist unity, into the revolutionary vanguard of the working class, the Avante! stabilised its publication, in such a way that from August 1941 to April 25, 1974 it was published continuously, always composed, printed and distributed in the country, thus asserting itself as the communist newspaper that, worldwide, successfully resisted the longest clandestinity - 43 years.

A success only possible due to the unlimited dedication and courage of its creators often paid with prison, torture and death as was the case of comrades Maria Machado, José Moreira, José Dias Coelho and Joaquim Rafael.

But, in the anti-fascist struggle, many other comrades, in the most diverse tasks - from delivering the news, to planning and elaborating the contents, to its composition, printing, distribution by the Party organisation, and by delivering it into the hands of readers - had their lives deeply linked to the great battle of the underground press, among many others, Bento Gonçalves, Miguel Russel, Alberto de Araújo, Paula de Oliveira, Júlio Fogaça, Álvaro Cunhal, Sérgio Vilarigues, Pires Jorge, Dias Lourenço, Blanqui Teixeira, Jaime Serra, Joaquim Gomes and Octávio Pato.

The first issue of Avante! after the 25th.of April was published on May 17, 1974. The front page read “The Communists in the Provisional Government”, a significant example of the freedom of information just conquered.

In the days and months that followed until the formation of the 1st. Constitutional Government (PS/Mário Soares), the Avante! was the voice of the masses conquering freedoms, forcing the release of political prisoners, demanding the end of the colonial war, fighting for Agrarian Reform, for nationalisations and worker control, demanding rights; it was the voice of the people-Armed Forces Movement (MFA) alliance, it continued to be the central organ of the PCP, the Party of the struggle against fascism but also the Party of revolutionary achievements, laying the first bricks of the new building of an advanced, political, economic, social and cultural democracy, that the 1976 Constitution, whose 45th. anniversary we will celebrate this year, would enshrine.

With the start of the counter-revolution, the liquidation of April's achievements and the restoration of monopoly capitalism, brutal attacks on the rights of the workers, of the people and the country, serious limitations and jeopardise of national sovereignty and independence, the Avante! becomes the spokesman for the resistance, the struggles of the workers and the people against the right-wing policy.

Today, as always, in this glorious and heroic life story, the Avante! as the central body of the PCP, is the spokesman for the struggle for an immediate response to the problems and aspirations of the workers and people, and for structural responses to the country's problems.

In the testimonies presented here by comrades who had or have in their hands the task of disseminating the Avante!, organising its sale, promoting its reading, the Regional Organisation of Lisbon made an important contribution to boost the dissemination of the central organ of the PCP, which is carried out within the scope of the Party's reinforcement action integrated in the Party's Centennial celebrations, under the motto "freedom, democracy, socialism - the future has a Party".

The strengthening of the Avante! will always mean strengthening the Party and without strengthening the Party the strengthening of the Avante! is unthinkable.

These are reflections that we have noted and which, in addition to the many shortcomings, difficulties and aspects to be improved, represent valuable help to the Party's efforts to improve the Avante!

We also had here proposals, reports of positive experiences, pointing out paths that show a common concern for valuing Avante! as an important tool of the Party's work and the concrete measures that are being considered to increase its dissemination, sale and regular reading.

An effort of which this meeting is already a significant expression and that will certainly be followed by other Regional Party Organisations and which will have to find concrete answers to questions such as: what to do in our organisation to deliver the Avante! to many more militants? How to deliver it particularly to new militants? How to deliver the Avante! to the workers and people, in companies, workplaces and on the streets? How to promote the dissemination of Avante! increasing its prestige and social and political influence and the prestige and social and political influence of the Party? What to do to improve the Avante! to make it more accessible and attractive to the workers and pensioners, to democrats and patriots, but also to micro, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs and farmers, to intellectuals and technical cadres, to women and youth, whose interests, rights and aspirations, the only voice in the Portuguese press?

The diffusion of the party press is a task of the utmost importance, which contributes to the strengthening of the Party.

Many measures can and should be taken to increase the dissemination and sale of the Avante!, to increase the number of its regular buyers, by contacting Party members and supporters to purchase it weekly.

It is necessary to expand and rejuvenate the number of comrades who take on the task of distributing Avante!, valuing it in the context of assuming permanent responsibilities.

It is necessary to create new structures for editorial dissemination (ADE).

It is necessary to organise regular public sale, namely in companies and workplaces.

It is necessary to promote special editions and sales.

It is also necessary to continue the effort to expand its presence and projection on the internet.

On the other hand, in terms of content, it is necessary to expand the thematic treatment and diversify the forms of approach.

At the same time, it is necessary to ensure the strengthening of the connection with the organisations and providing information, news and suggestions as a contribution to diversify content and address current issues.

In the ninety years of its life, the Avante! played a unique role in the Portuguese press. It honoured the role for which it was created. It was worthily the voice of a cause, the cause of the social and human emancipation of the Portuguese workers and people. It was a class-oriented newspaper, of the working class, patriotic while still being internationalist. It was and is the central organ of a Party that fought and fights, with the distinguished history of its 100 years.

A necessary and indispensable instrument, a great help in the complex and difficult context in which the struggle of the workers and people moves, where a brutal and overt ideological offensive and a reigning misinformation weigh, aimed at disarming and isolating any and all combats in defence of true popular interests and of any and all forces that, like the PCP, are against the interests of the ruling classes and the policy that serves them.

We all know that we live in a reality with a disturbing dimension at all levels in the world and here in our country. A reality that calls for the strengthening of our intervention and initiative in companies and workplaces, in different institutions and at various levels, as it calls for the mobilisation and development of the struggle that needs to be raised and expanded. A struggle that has, right now a date, set by decision of the CGTP-IN for the coming 25th. of this month, which demands a priority commitment from us in terms of participation and mobilisation.

To the serious economic and social problems resulting from years of right-wing policies by PS, PSD and CDS governments, we have to add the problems, for a year now, that derive from the COVID-19 epidemic.

Problems that do not find a response in the political options of the PS government and all the reactionary and revanchist forces that shamelessly instrumentalize, either to whitewash past responsibilities, or to relaunch their backward national disaster project, as highlighted by the intervention of the PSD and CDS and their surrogates Chega and Liberal Initiative.

Problems that Lisbon is well acquainted with and its people feel. Under the pretext of the epidemic, thousands of workers have been dismissed, wages have been cut, the pace of work has intensified, and precariousness has been promoted, while colossal sums of public funds have been handed over to economic and financial groups.

What we are witnessing is that each period of lockdown corresponds to a new wave of attack against wages, against employment, work times, vacations, the rights of those who work as is now happening, at the same time other strata of the population, such as micro and small entrepreneurs are faced with a difficult situation in their lives and a future of uncertainty.

In this moment in which limitations on activity are renewed and the interruption of school activities is extended, the need to move forward with measures and solutions that help address this situation of social emergency emerges with particular acuteness.

There is a pressing need to respond to a number of problems, but allow me highlight one right now that requires a solution without delay, which is linked to the situation of families with children and young people at home and with distance learning, many in teleworking.

Today, a week has passed since the beginning of distance learning, three weeks have passed since all nurseries and schools closed.

The situation to which the government is subjecting children and families is unacceptable. The government chose not to correct the mistakes made last year. It continues to impose a cut of one-third of the wages on those who have to stay with the children at home, it continues to prevent those who are teleworking from resorting to family assistance, it continues to deprive adolescents above 12 years of age of parental monitoring.

The results are in sight:

- families with children are again the most exposed to poverty, and the drop of one third of the wages, in a period in which household expenses increase considerably, contributes regrettably to this fact, adding instability and uncertainty in a period when families need maximum security;

- teleworking is not compatible with taking care of children, much less in lockdown and distance learning. Preventing those who are teleworking to activate assistance to the family is creating desperate situations. Younger children do not understand - nor do they have to understand! - why the father or mother are at home and don't care for them. Babies' needs do not wait for breaks from work. Support for a child, or more than one, with hours of online classes and asynchronous work, is not in keeping with serving clients, meeting deadlines, attending meetings.

For families with children at home this week was very hard. The consequences on the health of parents and children, on family relationship, on the learning process, can be lasting.

The government must take immediate action. Pay 100% family assistance. Allow those who are teleworking to activate assistance to the family. Extend support until the age of sixteen. These are the measures that allow families to freely make the best decisions to accompany children while schools are closed, a period that, we remind, should be the shortest possible.

The PCP has put on the agenda these proposals for the 18th., this coming Thursday, in the Assembly of the Republic. It is imperative that the PS does not sidestep from giving a positive answer to this problem and that the government immediately corrects the mistake it is making. This is the challenge that we are making from here. It is not acceptable that the brutal pressure on families in teleworking and the imperative need to care for and accompany children continues for more weeks!

Yes, if this is an urgent measure, others are needed to guarantee the health of the population, to revitalize the economy, to guarantee wages and jobs, to boost public investment, to extend social support to those who have been deprived of everything.

From the outset, measures are needed to provide the National Health Service with the necessary capability to respond to immediate health needs and to reinforce the level of response required to guarantee healthcare in general, namely the shortage of doctors in the various specialties, nurses, technicians and other health professionals. We are far from implementing measures that were defined in the State Budget for this year and the Supplementary Budget for 2020.

It is necessary to move forward with the vaccination process. The situation requires that the government does not comply with the European Union's position of yielding to the impositions of large multinational pharmaceutical companies, demanding compliance with the agreed deadlines for vaccine supplies.

The country cannot accept the situation that is created and that postpones the vaccination of the Portuguese indefinitely.

Just as there is an urgent need to respond to the problems facing thousands of micro and small businesses. Here too, on this matter, the government subverts and even contradicts what the Assembly of the Republic voted, using various subterfuges, the delay in regulation, the insufficient ceiling of funds for the measures envisaged or announced. Witness what is happening with the Apoiar [Support] programme, which is completely exhausted and requires immediate reinforcement!

It is necessary to respond to the difficulties of professionals in culture and shows. The situation of great precariousness that has pushed thousands out of the system, losing access to social protection, as well as the tremendous instability of the overwhelming majority of structures operating in this area, needs to be overcome. There is an urgent need to overcome the constraints that remain. It is necessary to guarantee emergency support and that these have decent amounts, to allow workers to live and these have to be paid immediately.

But we have other problems that need to be addressed. We know that over the months there have been very serious situations in many nursing homes that reveal the weaknesses and shortcomings of many of them.

Articulated solutions are urgently needed. Among other measures, you can no longer postpone the increase of workers for the Network of Nursing Homes by hiring through the Social Security, guaranteeing the stability of the bond and the other rights of these workers, as well as the expansion and requalification of the network of social equipment, including the creation of vacancies in public response, using Social Security equipment as the PCP has already proposed.

The government cannot invoke lack of conditions to provide the answer that the most immediate situation in the country and the lives of workers and people requires.

The solutions exist and many of them proposed by the PCP have been rejected due to the convergence between PS and PSD. Recovery programmes and billions of euros are announced in the form of a bazooka, but as the 2020 budgetary execution shows with the deficit below the forecast, the government is more concerned with meeting the budgetary targets imposed by the European Union, than responding to the country's problems.

But if emergency measures are needed to deal with the many social problems, Portugal needs to set in motion a true development programme for the country.

This is the time to correct strategic errors and break with a course that is responsible for the country's delays and difficulties.

This is the time to learn from the reality that was laid bare by the pandemic and assume it.

Lessons that contradict and undermine the core policy options of decades of right-wing governance and which if maintained not only
This is the time to take a serious look at the main national deficits and bottlenecks but also to observe the existing resources and potential and redirect the national economy in the correct direction.

Drawing and promoting the paths of the country's sovereign development that requires overcoming its structural deficits that have been identified long ago, at the head of which is a huge productive deficit, including of food.

The solutions cannot be those that have been promoted in the past, the country needs new solutions.

It needs solutions to guarantee full employment, to promote the development of the productive forces, to reduce marked social inequalities, to fully respond to the social functions of the State and affirm national sovereignty.

Portugal needs other solutions that assume as a decisive issue for the country, the need to valorise wages, pensions and workers' rights. The general increase in wages, including the National Minimum Wage, which remains below what is necessary and possible.

Portugal needs to overcome the serious problems facing public services with a social policy aimed at the equality, dignity and well-being of the Portuguese, capable of guaranteeing their rights to healthcare, education, social security, housing, culture, transport.

That is why it is fair to say that the global response to national problems can only gain expression with another policy, an alternative patriotic and left-wing policy, capable of ensuring economic development and social progress.

The day that marks the 100th anniversary of the existence of the Portuguese Communist Party is drawing near. We are less than a month away from that day - on March 6. A day of great significance for us, for the workers, for their emancipatory struggle!

A day that we will celebrate all over the country with a wide range of initiatives, centred on the problems of the workers, the people and the country under the motto: 100 years 100 actions - Freedom Democracy Socialism - For rights, improvement of living conditions and social progress. Against exploitation and impoverishment.

The PCP takes to the streets on that day the demand for a policy that responds to the problems, the aspirations and claims of the workers and the Portuguese People - the alternative patriotic and left-wing policy that the PCP proposes to our people, according to the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic and its project of development.

A day to affirm the values of April and to call for their materialisation in all areas of our collective life and reaffirm the validity of the project and the causes of this Party, which values and assumes with honour its unique past in Portuguese political life in defence of the interests of the workers and our people, but always with its eyes on the present and the future, as a force that is essential and decisive in the fight for rights and for the improvement of living conditions, to advance towards a fairer society, for the advanced democracy and for socialism.

March 6 will be a day of celebration and acclamation of the struggle of this hundred-year old Party!

Let us prepare to celebrate it, just as we are celebrating with great joy today the ninety years of our great newspaper, the Avante!