Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the PCP, Tribute to Catarina Eufémia

«Catarina Eufémia is a symbol of the struggle of our people and of the combative agricultural proletariat of Alentejo for bread and freedom»

We are here to pay tribute to Catarina Eufémia, in this year of the 100 years of the foundation of the Portuguese Communist Party, the Party of Catarina. This Party that has a unique history in the framework of Portuguese parties. The story of a Party that has always been at the forefront of the struggle of the workers and of our people. That took the lead in all combats against exploitation, oppression and inequality. That never bowed to the repression. That never faltered or surrendered. That fought as long as it took, under all circumstances and taking all risks, to defeat the fascist dictatorship, to affirm and move forward April, to uphold the interests of the workers and our people and their right to decide their own future. It was like this because it counted on the dedication and work of generations of intrepid combatants, people of great courage and dedication to the cause of the emancipation of the workers and the people, with peasant Catarina Eufémia being a symbol of the struggle of our people and the combative agricultural proletariat of the Alentejo for bread and freedom.

Once again here we are paying tribute to Catarina, the pride of all Portuguese workers, who stood in the frontline of combat in defence of the interests of the workers, bravely facing fascist brute force, having fallen to their murderous bullets on that tragic day of May 19, 1954, when she headed an intense struggle by the heroic people of Baleizão, on strike for better wages and against the oppression and exploitation of the big landowners, the mainstay of the fascist regime.

Despite the difficult times such as those that we live due to the epidemic outbreak, here we are renewing our feelings of respect and admiration and because we will never let her valuable lesson of dignity and courage be lost in the memory of men.

We are here honouring the memory of this hardworking woman and mother who will always remain in our hearts, an immortal example that gives us morale, strength and courage to continue the fight for a better world and in her we also celebrate the heroic struggle of agricultural workers in Alentejo. This tenacious and prolonged struggle gave rise to examples of courage shown by thousands and thousands of agricultural workers, facing persecutions, prison and tortures to which they were subjected by the brutal fascist repression.

We pay tribute to Catarina and in this tribute we associate all the comrades killed by fascism, all the anti-fascists who lost their lives or suffered the consequences of their option to face the odious fascist regime - this terrorist dictatorship of the monopolies and landowners.
We evoke Catarina and it is the prospect of the materialisation of the Agrarian Reform that remains alive in the horizon of our struggle - that great dream that generations after generations of agricultural workers aspired to see materialised with their long struggle!

This dream that became momentarily a reality with the April Revolution, under the slogan “the land to the tillers”, and that would allow the people of Alentejo and Ribatejo, in alliance with the Armed Forces Movement, to start building a new reality that then blossomed, promoting growth, economic development, job creation, the conquest of rights. Nothing was like before in these lands. Economic development was accompanied by social and cultural development which, in close connection and cooperation with Democratic Local Government, brought about deep democratic transformations in this region.

They advanced years with the Agrarian Reform and transformed the Alentejo of uncultivated lands, heaths, fallows, few and miserable cattle, unemployment and hunger, into a land of progress for all.

Agrarian Reform that would end up smothered and destroyed and the latifundium restored by a political power that, since 1976, took the side of the lords of the lands, of the big landowners that set the Alentejo on fire and brimstone during 14 years of onslaught, bringing again to the Alentejo not only abandoned lands, desertification and unemployment, but also a return to sordid and brutal exploitation of which Odemira is today just an example of this reality, where workers, mostly immigrants, without labour rights, with evidence of abusive and arbitrary practices, live in degraded housing and health conditions.

Heightened forms of exploitation that have expanded and also extended to the country, with the destruction of other achievements of April and with the prolonged offensive against workers' social and labour rights, promoted by successive governments of PS, PSD and CDS in all these last years in which the process of capitalist and latifundia restoration advanced.

Today, the result of this process is very visible, which has weakened those who live from their work and where there is a growing precariousness of the employment relationship and degraded wages and rights. A situation that affects a large number of workers ranging from agriculture to logistics, from fishing to industry, among other sectors, but which is also transversal to other territories ranging from the Douro to the West, from Alentejo to Ribatejo, passing through the large urban centres, where you find situations that are unacceptable.

There are hundreds of thousands of workers who are affected by the arbitrariness of exploitation, which sacrifices everything to the accumulation of profit. A world of unbridled exploitation where temporary work agencies or service providers and mafias proliferate without control.

There is a problem with the labour legislation, with the Labour Code and its successive amendments that the PS wants to maintain and PSD, CDS, Iniciativa Liberal and Chega applaud.

It is necessary to repeal the grievous norms of the labour legislation. It is necessary to ensure that a company set up to carry out a certain activity has a workforce to carry it out, that a company engaged in agriculture has a workforce and does not avoid responsibility and hide behind contracting services to companies in cascade, including all types of temporary work.

It is necessary that the companies that benefit from the work are also held responsible for the situation of the workers who work there, regardless of the degree of subcontracting they resort to.

Yes, it is necessary to repeal the grievous norms of the labour legislation and it is necessary to guarantee the intervention of the authorities, starting with the Authority for Working Conditions, which must have the necessary human and technical resources, adequate guidelines, powers of executive action, as the PCP has long been proposing.

The PCP acted and acts for these changes to the law to be materialised, also meeting the just complaints and demands that workers and their trade unions have strongly expressed, even now in the great May Day actions and in the demonstration of May 8 in Porto, promoted by CGTP-IN.

We have been denouncing and fighting this situation for a long time and this week, in an interpellation in the Assembly of the Republic proposed by us, we confronted the PS minority government with the country's social and labour reality and about workers' rights.

A reality that has further deteriorated in the last year with the negative consequences on the health and life of workers, together with the use by capital and those that serve it to further heighten exploitation and jeopardise labour, political and social rights.

It is the problems of the devaluation of work, professions, professional careers, low wages that in many cases do not allow to escape from poverty, which condition the development and settlement of new generations in our country.

It is the long and unregulated working hours, generalization of continuous work and shift work without justification, which represent increased difficulties in harmonising professional and family life.

It is the widespread precariousness with fixed-term contracts, the extended trial period, the plague of temporary work, false traineeships and green receipts that are factors of increasing precariousness in the very life of those who work.

It is the blackmail on workers with collective dismissals and diminished compensation.

A public administration where wages, careers, workers' rights are devalued.

In the meantime, we see the concentration of wealth in a handful of shareholders who grab the wealth created by workers, suck in colossal public resources, accumulate profits, distribute dividends, do not pay taxes due and take the money out of the country.

The PS had all the possibilities and opportunities to assume a change of position and start to defend workers' rights. It did not want to do so; it reaffirmed the option for the interests of capital.

The PS had every opportunity to respond to the most pressing needs, but not even the possibilities opened by the Budget for 2021 it seized.

It is true that through the action and intervention of the PCP it was possible to implement a set of measures of direct application set down in the State Budget and which were not dependent on the government to be executed and which had a positive effect in the life of 1,900,000 pensioners with increases of pensions; in the about 300,000 workers in lay-off receiving their wages at 100%; in the 230,000 people covered by support aimed at self-employed workers, managing partners, people without social protection and covered by automatic extension of unemployment benefits; in the approximately 19,000 covered by free of charge day-care centres. But other measures that had no direct application and depended on the government's execution have remained in the drawer and are yet to be implemented.

The PS resists, limits, does not comply in the face of the workers' problems, while it freely hands hundreds of millions of euros to the economic and financial groups, in convergence with the PSD, the CDS and their surrogates Chega and Iniciativa Liberal.

And today, when it comes to recovery and the millions of the so-called bazooka [EU funds], here we also have options. The recovery cannot be an excuse to heighten the exploitation and be a source of accumulation of profits of billions, while inequalities and social injustices grow.

For the PCP, recovery must be synonymous with economic and social development, guaranteeing the future for Portugal and having as a central element the valorisation of work and workers. It must be synonymous with employment with rights and demand of full employment.

The PCP is developing a campaign for employment and workers' rights, against exploitation, contacting workers, clarifying, mobilising.

The PCP calls on workers to fight for their rights and for the improvement of their living conditions.

For the defence of national production and job creation; the general increase in wages for all workers, namely the increase in the national minimum wage to 850 euros; the valorisation of careers and professions; combating deregulation of working hours and reducing working hours to 35 hours a week, preventing abuse of continuous work and shift work and strengthening workers' rights in this situation; combating precariousness so that a permanent job corresponds to an effective job contract; ensuring better working conditions and effective health protection; combating discrimination and inequality; decent working conditions and the application of rights to all workers, regardless of nationality or ethnicity, the repeal of the grievous norms of labour legislation; the guarantee of the application of the rights of trade union organisation and action.
These are the options of the alternative that we offer. The PCP assumes as an essential issue of the patriotic and left-wing alternative the valorisation of work and workers.

It is necessary to break with the options of the past of regression and exploitation and build a fairer Portugal in the labour and social fields with new solutions, where the right to work and work with rights have a concrete materialisation in our collective life.

When it marks 100 years of struggle, the PCP reaffirms its confidence in the workers and people, in their daily struggle for fairer, in a more fraternal and progressive society.

In this battle that we fight together, the PCP counts on the workers and the workers can count on the PCP!

This tribute to Catarina Eufémia, as we have stated, is not an act of nostalgia, it is the right remembrance of someone of whom we are immensely proud, it is to celebrate Catarina by continuing her struggle, our struggle.

With the awareness that the best tribute we can pay to Catarina Eufémia is to continue the fight for the goals for which she gave her life, here we reaffirm that we will not give up the struggle and the role that we have in defending the interests of the workers, of the people and the country!

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