Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the PCP, Political and Cultural Session to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Constitution

The Constitution is essential for the construction of a Portugal with a future, free, democratic and developed

On this day, 40 years ago, the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic was adopted and promulgated, the outcome of the liberating process of the April Revolution and of the struggle of our people.
It is this founding act of Portuguese democracy that we celebrate here today, thus commemorating one of the most advanced and progressive constitutions that the 20th. century has known, and which has proved to be, in these years of its life, a fundamental and indispensable support to regulate our democratic life, and also a mainstay that reinforces the legitimacy of the struggle, the ambitions and aspirations of the workers and the people for a better life, a more fraternal and solidary Portugal, freer and more democratic.

Here we are, always faithful to our commitment, not just to proclaim our firm determination to respect and uphold the Constitution of the Republic, but to do everything to shape the project of future that it holds.

We celebrate a Constitution that, being inseparable from this imperishable revolutionary process that begins on April 25, 1974 and the values it launched of freedom, democracy, social justice, peace and sovereignty are, essentially, a result of the struggle of the workers and the Portuguese people who saw their rights reflected, their aspirations, their achievements and the profound transformations and changes that they championed, in times of change and rupture with the fascist dictatorship, oppression and colonialism.

It was this struggle strengthened and cemented in the People/MFA [Armed Forces Movement] alliance that has launched these major changes that led to the liquidation of State monopoly capitalism, nationalised monopolies, carried out agrarian reform giving the land to the tiller, built democratic Local Government, won rights for the workers and the people, assumed freedom in all its plenitude.
It was this struggle and this fruitful alliance that enabled the Revolution to take a very broad set of measures in favour of the workers and the people, and that left its indelible mark on the Portuguese Constitution.

At this time of celebration, let me here pay tribute to the MPs of the Constituent Assembly who, with their distinguished work, shaped it and sealed the collective commitment to democratic Portugal, of progress and independent that the 1976 Constitution enshrined.

A work for which the PCP is proud to have given a generous and qualified contribution and, later in hard combat fought in its defence, but also in the demand of respect for the norms, values and project, and for its implementation.

Also allow me, in this act of great symbolism for the workers and our people, to declare our imperishable gratitude to the April soldiers who handed back the dignity and freedom to the people, and the right to decide their future.

The Constitution we celebrate today had from the time of its construction declared enemies, but also hidden enemies as was clear during these forty years of its duration.

The conservative and reactionary forces, political and social, the great economic and financial interests, the great lords of the land, never reconciled with its liberating and emancipatory project and looked at the April Constitution as an obstacle to restore and affirm their interests and their lost power.

The Constitution we celebrate today faced cyclical attacks that mutilated and impoverished it in many areas and relevant respects, limiting its scope and progressive content.

In fact, in seven processes of constitutional revision that meanwhile took place, on the basis of agreements between the PS and PSD, always with the support of the CDS, some key aspects of the Constitution of the Republic adopted in 1976 were gradually eliminated or uncharacterised and opened the way for the disastrous privatisation process, for the alienation of national sovereignty in favour of supranational institutions of the European Union, for a practical infeasibility of regionalization, for the liquidation of revolutionary changes achieved by the April revolution.

In many moments, the political forces that opposed the Constitution made it the scapegoat of the country's ills to conceal the serious responsibilities of the right-wing policy conducted by PSD, CDS and PS governments that explicitly defied or omitted it to serve their illegitimate interests and which are the real cause of the difficulties of the country and the Portuguese.

It was not the Constitution of the Republic that imposed the disastrous governing path that led the country to the crisis and to economic and social regression.

These last four years of PSD/CDS government and its practice of permanent attack on the Constitution, on the rights and the principles therein enshrined, are a good example of governance against the Fundamental Law.

A governance in line with the thinking of the then Prime Minister Passos Coelho, who soon after assuming the leadership of the PSD, led a failed attack against the Constitution with the presentation of a draft constitutional revision in whose preamble it is stated that " the Constitution, as is currently written, creates many obstacles and barriers to reforms that Portugal badly needs "and proposed to liquidate the fundamental aspects of the Constitution, particularly in social and labour fields, eliminating the constitutional requirement of just cause for dismissal and with the liquidation of fundamental social rights, in health, education and social protection.

These years of PSD/CDS government, in which all State Budgets contained provisions declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, have been marked not only by a government policy of permanent defiance of the Constitution, but also by an offensive aimed at neutralising the judicial mechanisms of monitoring constitutionality. The attack on the Constitutional Court by the Government and its supporters intended to call into question the validity of the Constitution itself and the legitimacy of the monitoring of the constitutionality of laws.

Aware that the policies it intended to pursue directly defied fundamental principles constitutionally enshrined, the right-wing launched a violent campaign to seek to impose a state of undeclared exception, according to which, in times of crisis the Constitution could not be invoked. As if it was not precisely in times of crisis and threat to fundamental rights that should reveal the essential value of the Constitution as a guarantor of the inviolability of these rights.

This is what in fact happened. The declaration of the unconstitutionality of permanent cuts in wages, retirement and pensions, which enabled to halt some of the more serious and unjust measures of the PSD/CDS government aiming to further impoverish the laborious and most vulnerable layers of society, has shown that the Constitution was not suspended as the right-wing intended and remained as a major obstacle to the designs of social revenge that always inspired the Portuguese right-wing.
The defeat of the PSD and the CDS on October 4 of last year and their removal from power, is also a victory of the Constitution with the restoration of core values that the right-wing policy so deeply affronted.

The Constitution of the Republic, despite the severity of mutilations and perversions, emanates a clear project of a broad democracy with a future solution for Portugal.

A democracy assumed in all its dimensions, not in terms of general statement, but concrete - political, economic, social and cultural and which materialises a project of the transformation and modernity of the April Revolution.

Yes! The Constitution of the Republic remains the guarantor of important political, economic, social and cultural rights of the workers and the people.

In it are inscribed the rights of workers as intrinsic to democracy, from the trade union rights to labour rights, to justice, job security, a fairer redistribution of wealth by implementing the right to fairer wages, decent working hours.

It expresses the right to work for all and the implementation of economic policies of full employment.
It recognizes that women have the right to equality at work, in the family and in society and important rights for children, youth, pensioners and citizens with disabilities.

It proclaims the requirement of subordination of economic power to political power and the duty of the State to give priority to economic and development policies to ensure increased social well-being, quality of life, social justice and economic and social cohesion of the entire national territory.
In it remain as constitutional principles, public ownership of natural resources and of the means of production, to serve the collective interest; democratic planning; the participation of organisations representing workers in the definition of economic and social measures.

In it remain the principles of economic organisation based on a mixed economy, in which public, private, cooperative and social sectors of the means of production coexist, neither monopolist nor latifundiary.
It enshrines the State's duties regarding important areas like education and teaching, health, social security, culture!

In it remain fundamental principles for the State organization, such as the independence of the courts and the autonomy of the Prosecution; the autonomy of democratic Local Government.

It stipulates the just principles that should guide international relations and which Portugal should follow - the principles of equality among States, of peaceful settlement of conflicts and non-interference in the internal affairs of other States, disarmament and dissolution of military blocs.

Principles, options and instruments of intervention that should and could guide and ensure a policy of economic and social development to serve the people and the Country.

A policy inspired on April values so clearly assumed by the patriotic and left-wing policy proposed by the PCP to the Portuguese.

A policy to ensure economic independence of the Country, based on the use of national resources and which recovers the political and economic instruments which prove indispensable for the development of Portugal in the economic, budgetary and monetary fields, of trade relations and development of the productive sector and defence of national production.

A policy able to promote creation of jobs, the valorisation of wages and pensions, defence and affirmation of the social functions of the State and of public services.

A policy that safeguards and promotes the development of Portuguese culture and the preservation of the cultural identity of the Portuguese people.

A policy that, in terms of the EU, rejects the imposition of EU policies that harm national interest.
A policy that, affirming an unwavering commitment to the Constitution, rejects an European integration characterised by submission and conditioning of the development of Portugal and affirms the full right of the Portuguese people to decide their own destiny.

In view of the serious situation into which the country was led in recent years, Portugal needs to implement urgently a policy to fully resume the project of society and organisation of our collective life that the Constitution enshrines.

In this new phase of national political life, marked by the dismissal of the PSD/CDS government and the new correlation of forces in the National Assembly, is a time of opportunity that is necessary to take advantage of to build this project that the life and the solution of national problems demands.
The importance of the Constitution of the Republic for the construction of a Portugal with a future, free, democratic and developed is in our view unquestionable. Its topicality and close identification with the deepest aspirations of the workers and the Portuguese people are the guarantee that their defence will always be people's work who inspired and built it with their struggle, of those who do not lose hope, or confidence to resume the project of a better, fairer and more fraternal society than the Constitution projects!

Yes, long live the Constitution!

Long live the April values!

  • Regime Democrático e Assuntos Constitucionais
  • Central
  • Constituição da República Portuguesa