We gather here, today, at the Vitoria Party Centre, in this act to evoke the Communist Manifesto, in an act to evoke the works of Marx and Engels. It is only a simple initiative, but meaningful to all of us. We do this with our eyes set in the future and in the combats that we have ahead of us, at this turn of the century.
150 years have gone by and only seldom has a text had such an audience, so much analysis and passion, so much hatred and detraction. A century and a half of revolutionary storms, of radical changes, of civilisation’s thrust, but also of democratic upsets and social regression. Marx did not leave us a recipe or a ready-to-wear. What he left us was a “guide for action” and essential tools and concepts so that we understand the reality surrounding us, the world we live in, the course of mankind. He who was considered, in all fairness, the heir of the best creations of German classical philosophy, English political economy and French utopian socialism knew how to dive deep in the reality of his own time and critically re-elaborate what had been achieved until then.
He committed all his efforts to find an answer to a complex task which he formulated in a clear and simple manner “philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways: the question is, however, how to transform it”. We know how he linked the creation of the new society to a larger development of productive forces, to individual freedom and to democracy, aiming at liberating man from all types of exploitation and oppression, that is, to envisage the setting up of the social and political conditions which would allow for the materialisation of the well-known formula “the free development of each as a condition for the free development of all” .
The Communist Manifesto started a true revolution in the history of social thinking, revealing history’s materialist conception, the mechanisms of capitalist production, capital’s exploitation of labour, surplus value formation and appropriation.
The flags raised by Marx were grabbed by great figures, namely first of all by Engels, and still during Engel’s life, by Vladimir llitch Lenine, who led,
with the Bolschevik Party, the first triumphant socialist revolution, the Great October Revolution which radically changed the world’s social and political context, gave birth to the first experience of building socialism giving a powerful thrust to the anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, democratic and socialist emancipation and liberation movements.
With courage, we face the facts of history
While evoking, here and now, the Communist Manifesto’s 150 years, we do not pretend to ignore the shady pages or periods, that is, the errors, perversions, failures, tragedies as well as the “followism” and silences which are also a trace in the communists’ historical path and which brought so much anguish, perplexity, unrest and difficulties to our struggle in the whole world.
No, we face up to those facts with truth and courage however hard they may be, as we have already demonstrated, namely with our assessments at the l3th Extraordinary Congress.
And we take as a profound commitment of our thinking and of our action, reflecting and acting, more and better, for the enrichment of a communist project which meets the demands of our country and the challenges of our present time, strongly demarcated from everything that has cast shadows over our ideas’ capacity of attraction, firmly anchored in our own history and combat of the last 77 years, strongly supported by an inseparable political compromise binding freedom and democracy with a project of real social change, abolition of the exploitation of man by man and the overcoming of capitalism.
But, at the same time we refuse and will continue to refuse that some want to put on our shoulders direct or indirect responsibilities which, in accuracy, we do not have, nor do we see any reason to assume.
We refuse and will continue to refuse that those who defend capitalism (who obviously do not take up responsibility for the crimes committed by the system they defend) try to show themselves as the court of history where unacceptably they judge and incriminate the communist ideas and the communists themselves.
We refuse and will continue to refuse the attempt to redirect and limit the whole of the communists’ imaginary, asset and project simply to some concrete experiences of building socialism forgetting that in that imaginary, asset and project one has to include the struggles of millions of men and women and dozens of communist parties who, with generous action throughout this century, the enormous price paid in sacrifices and blood in their resistance against fascism gave a priceless contribution to the cause of freedom and are behind many of civilisation’s advances and of the most relevant social and politic gains.
We equally refuse and will continue to refuse that, concerning the experiences of building socialism the events of the 9O’s may be used as a sort of historical erasure, unfairly trying to bury all that was newly and hopefully built, the many changes operated, the generosity, work and effort of millions of men and women, to build a new life and new horizons of happiness for human beings.
To consider real life
In the enrichment of our project the exercise of power by the communists at all levels in the Party and in the State is another major topical question together with the role of the market and of different forms of ownership.
The Manifesto underlines that the cornerstone of the new socio-economic system is the social ownership of the means of production. Those who utilised the masses’ impatience wanted to do it overnight and made that objective an absolute value.
Later came the system’s shortcomings, the contempt for social ownership and the fact that the transformation of the “mine”, of what is private ownership, into “ours”, into social, is a long and complex process.
The revolution in the production relations cannot be limited to the collective appropriation of the main means of production and distribution and it does not put an end, only by itself, to the negative traits accumulated over the centuries.
But if this is a reality, it is equally a fact that without the collective appropriation of the fundamental and strategic enterprises, any form of governing on the left and any “model” of socialism as beautiful and attractive as its clothing may be, would in practice be dead and could only continue to exist in the imagination of its creators. This question is as true today as it was in Marx’s days.
Before the uncertainties, the accumulation of serious problems and the disappearance of real socialism in Eastern Europe, the calls for a return to Marx are being renewed. And they are quite necessary.
Not to “improve Marx” or to spend our time with his quotations, in the narrow view of those who see themselves as the faithful interpreters of the Coran, about what “Marx really said” nor to reject posterior developments and creative contributions, elaborated by his continuators under the conditions of their own times. To do this, would be seeing Marxism as a museum piece, as some have already declared.
The Manifesto underlines that “the communist’s theoretical proposals are in no way based upon ideas or principles which were invented by this or that “improver” of the world. They are just the general expressions of the effective relations of an existing class struggle, of an historic movement which runs before our very eyes”.
The founder of the Soviet State equally underlined: “[...] it is necessary to assimilate the irrefutable truth that a Marxist must consider real life, reality’s accurate facts and not continue to stick to yesterday’s theory, which, just like any other theory, in the best of cases, only indicates what is essential and general, only coming near to apprehend life’s complexity.
Therefore, yes to a return to Marx, reaping all posterior developments and the best that mankind produces, working humbly and with perseverance in a new effort of theoretical and political creativity, trying to grasp reality and continuing the struggle, in the framework of the social, political, technological and cultural changes which define the outlines of our society for the 21st century.
That is also why, we, the Portuguese communists, project socialism with the deepening of democracy in all of its aspects, with the gains of the 25th of April, including and developing the essential economic, social, political and cultural elements of the advanced democracy we propose to the Portuguese people, while conceiving political democracy as having an intrinsic value in itself.
The Manifesto’s topicality is also found in what it projects and still in the reality that it talks about and assesses, which, in its more essential and structuring traits, can still be found today.
Those who, from the height of their privileges glorify the “triumph of capitalism” and the “triumph of neo-liberalism” and who identify market with democracy, cannot erase the perpetuation, although under newly altered historic forms, of the relations of exploitation and domination, nor can they erase the reality of the aggravation of inequalities in our planet, including its existence in the more developed countries.
The European Union itself, which is part of the Planet’s 20% of the population which holds 80% of the world income, has 50 million poor people and 20 million unemployed!
Capitalism continues to produce those who are excluded from social progress namely the youngsters, the women and the immigrants as well as the concentration of fabulous wealth ...
The new world oligarchies of finance, of the media and IT, arrogantly and self-sufficiently proclaim their rule and the virtues of the “new world order”.
But the moles of history do not give up and continue to labour in the context of the possibilities and necessity of building other societies.
In actual fact, inequalities are growing and problems are mounting. The privatisation of the whole of the economy is nowadays the dogma of all well-behaved neo-liberals, polarising wealth and thus increasing the unemployment figures. The social stratification in the whole planet continues to polarise, with the assets of the 358 richest people in the world amounting to the equivalent of the poorest 45% of the world’s population, that is, 2.3 billion people!
And all of this in a framework in which, never as today, the development of productive forces would enable solving mankind’s secular problems. Instead, what we are witnessing is social regression and the forceful return of the old social scourges which existed in the beginning of the century: mass unemployment, child labour, labour without rights, growing and accelerated poverty.
Its also due to this that the working class, the workers, the peoples and the “damned of the earth”, from Chiapas and East Timor, from Palestine and the Third World, from the developed countries, resist and fight, although in a complex and difficult context.
The road showed by Marx and Engels faces difficult obstacles, given today’s balance of forces. But as we declare in our programme, in the assessment of the perspectives for the social and political evolution of today’s world, it is indispensable to consider that, while capitalism was formed and established as the dominant system in a process lasting several centuries, socialism started in the 2Oth century and only knew its first historic surges during some decades.
The Manifesto naturally bears the traces of its own time, but we are convinced that, given its style, vigour and topicality, it will be read by today’s youngsters with pleasure and surprise. There, they will find an incitement to reject fatalism and to audacious thinking and action. To read or re-read the Manifesto is still the best way of evoking it. On our part, as stated in the declaration of the 14-15 February PCP’s Central Committee meeting, the PCP, certain as it is of the strength, grandeur and vitality of its values and ideals, open to life and to the future, engaged in asserting, enriching and projecting its identity and its project of democracy and socialism for Portugal, will do everything to continue honouring and fulfilling even further its national and internationalist responsibilities as a great force of freedom, democracy and social progress serving the workers,
the people and the country.