Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the PCP, Rally of the «Avante!» Festival

«The country needs to move forward and follow a new course!»

Warmest greetings to all of you, to all the builders, participants and visitors to the Avante! Festival. The Festival of an irreplaceable newspaper, the central organ of this Portuguese Communist Party. This Party, founded on March 6, 1921, which in this year 2021 has completed 100 years of life and struggle!

A special greeting to the youth and to the JCP, for their indispensable contribution, for their unique generosity and joy and for their massive participation in raising and making this Festival which is, and will always be, the Festival of peace, friendship and solidarity among peoples, of democracy and socialism, against exploitation. Your presence gives us great confidence, because it carries the Festival that we will build in the future!

A special greeting to our friends from the Ecologist Party “The Greens”, to the Democratic Intervention, to the many thousands of people without party affiliation who together with us are part of the Broad Democratic Coalition - the CDU, at a time when, side by side, we are fighting another important electoral combat for Local Government bodies.

This is a unique Festival, there is no other like it in Portugal. A Festival where the Party that we are is portrayed, its transforming project, the strength of its convictions, its values and ideals, its way of being in life, its determination to fight and build a better future. That portrays and projects this Party that is here, that has lived and struggled for 100 years, passing the baton from generation to generation, serving the workers, the people and the country, always solidary with the liberating struggles of all the peoples of the world.

100 years celebrated all over the country, with the dignity of those who asserted themselves in the national space with a unique and unequalled history. A history that is intertwined with the history of our country and our people.

Today we recall that symbolic day of the PCP’s Centenary that gathered at the same time and all over the country, including in the most remote parts of our territory, in 100 Actions, our firm and determined party collective and thousands of workers and other people of the most diverse strata of our people, revealing the implantation and vitality of this Communist Party, which prides itself on being it, because it is permanently renewed and because it has never abandoned the field of struggle in defence of the workers and the people and for the achievement of the new society – socialism!

These are 100 years celebrated in the struggle and with a struggle that continues today, taking the lead in defence of the vital interests of our people and democracy, in these troubled and difficult times of epidemic, facing the most insidious and vile campaigns.

They wanted to silence us! They wanted to limit the action of this indispensable Party in the struggle of the workers and populations. They tried to prevent the Avante! Festival, spitefully implied financial motives.

If these were our motivations, we would not have held it!

Today it is easier to see how just our reasons were.

It was necessary to stop the aims of the lords of fear and might, the lords of money and the forces that serve them who aspired to limit the exercise of freedoms, undermine democracy, hinder protest and ban social struggle and collective action in companies, in the public space and in institutions and take far, under the pretext of the epidemic, the heightening of the exploitation of our people.

It was necessary to give confidence and hope. Fighting fear and, at the same time, demanding measures and solutions to safeguard the health of those who live and work in this country, as we have always done, fighting and proposing concrete measures, from vaccination to testing and strengthening the National Health Service.

It was because of that and because the problems grew, that we did not allow, from the very first moment, neither the virus to infect the rights, nor lockdown the fight, leaving big capital freewheeling. It was for this reason that the struggle of the workers and our people, the consequent and organised struggle, which does not advance with sudden impulses, nor does it falter in the face of the first hurdles, remained and remains alive and strengthens itself with each passing day.

From here, from the Avante! Festival, a space of joy, togetherness, fraternisation, but also of struggle, we salute all those who struggle, all those who, in the face of a brutal onslaught, have not lowered their arms and claimed what is rightfully theirs , in defence of employment, labour and social rights, wages, working hours and stability of life.

We salute all the workers who have given a magnificent example that, in the face of the worst difficulties, the path is not that of resignation and conformity, the path is that of struggle and progress.

So many, so many struggles, so many, so many companies, that the reference to workers at TAP, GALP, Groundforce, Dielmar, Altice, Saint-Gobain Sekurit, commerce, Caixa Geral de Depósitos and banking, central and local public Administration, railways, cork producers, transport, security forces, the military, are just examples of a torrent that grows every day and have an appointment in the coming days, in the coming weeks, in the coming months all over the country.

And if we salute those who struggle, we would like to salute with special care and enthusiasm the organisers of the struggle, the Workers' Representative Organisations and, in particular, the Unitary Trade Union Movement, the CGTP-IN, the great trade union central of Portuguese workers, protagonist of a course and of a heritage of five decades with the workers and for the workers.

Struggles that give strength and encouragement to the ongoing struggles for wages, employment and rights, but also in defence of public services and from the outset of the National Health Service, Public Schools and Social Security.
A struggle in which the action also includes other strata, of farmers, like the one now of milk producers, in defence of the valorisation of the price paid for production, of micro, small and medium-size entrepreneurs, for the right to exercise their activities or workers and agents of culture, for the right to culture and creation.

A struggle that assumes particular importance, because it opens horizons and gives confidence and perspectives to all those who see their rights challenged, at a time when they insist on yielding, under the pretext of fighting the virus.

We have often said: the virus has broad shoulders. The workers and the people are the ones who can no longer bear so much load on their shoulders!

Struggles to which the PCP gave encouragement, support and institutional expression, with a multiplicity of initiatives, in all areas, responding to the most pressing problems, whether for wages, in defence of workers' rights, working hours, reducing working hours, the defence of collective bargaining, protection in view of teleworking, maternity and paternity rights, or the strengthening of ACT (Working Conditions Authority), whether in defence of culture and education, or to respond to small and medium-size entrepreneurs, or to combat speculation of fuel and energy prices, or by extending bank moratoriums.

Yes, the PCP was the Party that tabled the most proposals and legislative initiatives to defend the workers and the people.

The workers' struggle and the PCP's action were decisive for the defence and advancement of rights. A decisive action for the full payment of wages for workers under lay-off, for the enforcement of the payments for hardship and insalubrity, for the increase of pensions, for support to the most disadvantaged.

Through the action of the PCP, all unemployment benefits that ended in 2021 were extended for another six months. And the extension of the extra risk subsidy to workers in essential services under the responsibility of the State was approved. And the hiring of thousands of workers missing in public services and functions, namely in schools, in the NHS, which the government must fully implement and without delays. But also the implementation of the valorisation of their rights, including the answer to the problems of a fair payment of risk subsidy for the professionals of the security forces.

The expansion and reinforcement of the struggle of workers and the people is a demand of the present time, at this moment when all the forces of big capital are regrouping and reorganising, as seen in the articulation of the employers' confederations and in the convergent action of the 42 groups that now come forward under the pretext of the country's recovery, claiming what best serves their selfish interests.

The same ones who never lose and continue to earn millions, even in times of epidemic, as revealed by the increased distribution of their dividends in 2020 and the increase in transfers to tax havens.

They chant in unison, they and their hirelings, supported by a vast ideological campaign, cynical concerns about the country's decay, or the anaemic growth of the last 25 years, as if right-wing policies were not at their origin.

They speak of reforms and demand structural reforms that are not reforms, but severe blows to the lives of workers and the people and to democracy itself, always aimed at the degradation of wages and rights, the subversion of the pension system and the social functions of the State and its organisation and power system.

They want to maintain most of the regressions imposed by PS, PSD and CDS on labour legislation in recent years and, in this time, which smacks of fresh public money, they want a lion's share.

Anyone who hears them speak will think that it was not the PS, PSD and CDS governments that were there to serve their interests, the interests of monopoly capital.

They speak of the consequences of a policy that was at their service, omitting and distorting the key players and the real causes that are at the root of the country's backwardness.

They omit that the problems are the result of the policy of abandoning national productive sectors and the privatisation of strategic sectors. They omit that joining the Euro has translated into a new factor in reducing the country's competitive ability and being bound to the Stability Pact imposed a freeze on growth and the people's living conditions.

In this mystifying offensive they rely on the most retrograde and reactionary political forces, such as the PSD and the CDS and their surrogates of the Iniciativa Liberal and Chega that play the role of racecourse hares with their so-called proposals for structural reforms and constitutional amendment and of electoral laws to guarantee artificial majorities.

Just as they rely on the complacency and complicity of the PS government, which, as can be seen in their options for defending the grievous norms of labour legislation, in their choices regarding the Novo Banco, in watching without blinking an eye the collective dismissal attempts or closures of companies such as GALP's Matosinhos refinery, Saint Gobain Sekurit, among many others.

But what this concerted operation between the forces of big capital and the political forces that support them confirms and ends up being recognised is what the PCP has been saying for a long time: the right-wing policy, with regard to the interests of the country, failed!

It failed at the economic level, leaving the country more fragile and dependent.

It failed on the social level with the deepening of social and territorial inequalities and the concentration and centralisation of wealth.

It failed at the political level with the practices of submission of political power to economic power, of promiscuity between business and politics that favoured corruption and the policy of instrumentalization of the State in favour of economic groups, which is clearly evident in this turning plate that rotates in permanent concubinage boards of directors of companies and members of governments.

But also with the growing restrictions and limitations imposed on participatory democracy, namely in the labour and social field, and the instrumentalization of the media, where the criteria for news and debate are, in general, that of defending and promoting the dominant ideology and interests, without contradictory.

The country does not need more of the same, but to free itself from the vicious cycle of right-wing policies and the accumulated problems they have created! The country needs to move forward and follow a new course!

The response that the country needs in the face of a national reality, worsened by the new problems that the epidemic has brought, some of which we will have to deal with in the near future, is of great demand and amplitude, under penalty of deepening deficits, inequalities and injustices.

Portugal has a set of structural problems that translate into worrying deficits, in the fields of production, science and technology, energy, but also demographic ones, which interconnect and influence each other, such as the intertwining measures that are needed to overcome them.

Portugal needs new solutions to overcome its serious production deficit and, particularly and more urgently, the food deficit and the imported component of exports. To produce more to import less, create qualified employment, free the country from decades of indebtedness, it is necessary to have a programme of replacement of imports by national production, which requires standing up to the impositions of the European Union that destroyed agriculture, fisheries and part of the national industry.

It is necessary to diversify trade relations with other countries. Promoting, in fact, the re-industrialization of the country instead of the de-industrialization that we continue to witness every day and of which the Matosinhos refinery is an example.

We need to produce medicines, food, components and intermediate products, transport means and equipment instead of buying them abroad. We need to rebuild production chains, taking advantage of national resources and ensuring that they are transformed in the country.

The production deficit is also overcome by holding the strategic sectors in the hands of the country. The restoration of public control of these sectors is the only guarantee that small and medium-size companies have access to credit and are not wiped out by bank profits, to reduce the costs of energy, communications, highways, airports and having transport that responds to the country's needs, with emphasis on the railway, with a unified CP (Portuguese Railways). But also to ensure that the profits obtained are invested in the country's technological modernisation instead of flying, in billions, abroad.

The country needs a different response to overcome the scientific and technological deficit it faces. With more investment in Public Higher Education and in scientific research, with the enhancement of State laboratories, such as the National Medicine Laboratory. With a National Strategy for the Digital Economy and not isolated projects determined by the programmes of European capital and by the European Union.

The country needs to overcome the energy deficit. A goal that will not be achieved while GALP, EDP or REN are not in the hands of the Portuguese State. Reducing energy dependence implies increasing the use of national resources for energy production, including in terms of renewables, whose gradual incorporation must comply with the country's possibilities and the reduction of energy costs and not the interests of businesses created in the shadow of decarbonisation .

The country also needs to overcome the demographic deficit that the 2021 census recently confirmed. It is not in repeated announcements of government programmes to support the youth or the countryside that the answer lies. No matter what you try to say, there will be no demographic growth or territorial balance, without the revitalisation of the economies of a substantial part of the territory, the reconstruction of the productive apparatus and the creation of jobs with rights and conditions for a decent life to be possible. Without strong investment in agriculture and rural world, which includes the forest. And, above all, without a policy that valorises salaries, without the strengthening of public services, without the creation of jobs in the private and public sectors, without the guarantee of the right to housing, without day care centres and homes for the elderly that respond to the different needs throughout life.

The country also needs a shift in the environmental field. Not the one that is thrilling multinationals who want more profits while maintaining all the instruments of predation on natural resources inherent to capitalism. The fight against environmental degradation is not done with green brands, green taxes or multinationals painted green. Ensuring water as a public good, promoting national and local production, promoting public transport, extending the offer to the entire country, these are measures that are needed and it is about time they are implemented.

Measures that we did not find in the RRP, nor in Portugal 2030, no matter how many transitions they proclaim. Unlike the propaganda, the RRP is not the instrument capable of providing the structural changes that the country needs. The RRP is not based on the country's needs, but on the impositions of the European Union. No matter how many more millions are announced, especially those already promised to big capital, without a profound change in policies, the country will remain lacking.

The country's situation currently demands a range of responses and options that correspond to the dimension of the problems at hand.

Portugal needs another policy, an alternative policy capable of solving accumulated problems and embarking on a path of economic and social development.

And it needs to do so by breaking, in a determined and sustained way, with the structuring options of the right-wing policy, setting on this path the response to more immediate problems that mark and weigh negatively on the lives of workers and the people.

Answers that are required, within the framework of the struggle for a patriotic and left-wing alternative, without which the path to the solution of national problems cannot be forged.

Ignoring this means not seeing that it is the budgetary and deficit options that the current government wants to impose that limit or hinder the scope of these measures.

Emerging responses such as the general increase in wages for all workers, of the average wage, the valorisation of careers, the increase in the National Minimum Wage to 850 euros, the fight against precariousness or the deregulation of working hours, are not taken without confronting big capital and taking sides with those who work.

The defence and affirmation of workers' rights, the repeal of the grievous norms of labour legislation such as the expiry [of collective bargaining] must be assumed and not swept under the rug of concertation with the large employers.

The urgent valuation of pensions of all those who have deducted, including above 658.20 euros, cannot be dependent on the PS's refusal to find funding sources that guarantee the stability of Social Security.

The indispensable strengthening of the NHS involves valorising the careers and salaries of its professionals, measures that cannot depend on the calculation of what it costs and what it will weigh on the side of expense, but rather on what is necessary to respond to Covid and that was left undone because of the epidemic,

The bolstering of investment in public services, education or culture requires assuming structural expenditure that gives stability and a future to Public Schools, universities, cultural structures and entities and their thousands of workers.

Fiscal justice that is needed by easing taxes on lower-income workers must confront profits and big assets and incomes.

The guarantee of free day care centres for all children calls for a funding option that prioritizes supporting children and families instead of behaving like a good pupil in Brussels.

The guarantee of a network of nursing homes and the effective support for the elderly, their families and caretakers require a strong public investment in equipment and workers, incompatible with the lack of responsibility of the State in this matter.

The necessary valorisation of social support, from the universalization and increase in the value of the family allowance, to the increase in the value and expansion of the criteria for accessing unemployment benefits, requires a decisive option to fight poverty that goes beyond propaganda.

The right to housing will not be solved without an increase in the public offer of housing on a large scale, with the central State assuming its responsibilities, nor with the PSD/CDS government’s Law on Rents, which the current government refuses to amend.

Public transport must be assumed as a competence that belongs to the State and not to be advertised about and transferring this responsibility to local government.

Tolls on SCUTs, tuition or user fees in healthcare cannot be seen as a means of extortion from the population.

The exceptional measures that were taken to overcome the impacts of Covid cannot disappear completely, ignoring the difficulties faced by thousands of families and companies.

Measures, these and others, which for each of them or as a whole require clear options, determination to confront interests, take sides in the interests of the workers and people.

What we have defended and defend is clear and let no one have any doubts: The PCP will fight for the necessary rupture and alternative. The PCP will fight at all levels and in all areas of intervention for every measure necessary for our people and for our country. This is what we have done, and what we will do!

We are just 20 days away from the elections for Local Government. This is an important electoral battle. A battle to be waged with confidence, with an eye on the future we are in and want to build, to grow and advance, to confirm and strengthen positions, to expand our influence and what it means in terms of possibilities to serve the populations and their aspirations.

The CDU stands in the whole country with its alternative project and the distinctive character of its municipal action. Proving the values of Work, Honesty and Competence that it assumes, of an intervention in defence of the interests of populations and workers, of the recognised rigour and impartiality in the management of municipalities and the posture of their elected representatives, of intervention in defence of public services and affirmation of the Democratic Local Government.

The CDU affirms every day and in all situations its presence and its distinctive project because its elected representatives have the sole commitment to be at the service of the people and not to take advantage of their positions for their personal benefit.

We are all over the country, giving expression to the unitary and democratic convergence dimension that the CDU represents. We stand in 305 of the 308 councils, with more than 40,000 candidates, many thousands without party affiliation. The CDU is unquestionably a great national force.

Yes, it is particularly important that at CDU we affirm our project and our programme without hesitation, and that we present ourselves with our own initials and symbol.

We do not hide as others do in arrangements of circumstance, nor in false independents slates.

The CDU responds for what it is, for the actions of its elected representatives, for the programmes it assumes and for the project it embodies.

Here we are today and we will be there in every part of the national territory, in every municipality and in every parish, as we have always done to give an account of the work carried out by CDU, to assume our responsibilities with truth, raised head and with the serenity that the work carried out and our commitment at the service of the collective interest gives us.

Yes, comrades. It is this strength, these options and criteria for defending the public interest, this clarity of objectives, this sense of serving the population and responding to their problems that is necessary to expand from the local to the national level. The workers, the people and the country need a CDU, and the forces that constitute it, stronger and more influential.

Future of confidence. Confidence in the recognition and support that our work merits, confidence that it is possible to build a better life.

It is time to strengthen the work and move ahead!

Recent events confirm the major trends that have marked the evolution of the international situation, as well as the possibility of rapid developments.

No matter how great the geopolitical calculations of the United States of America and its campaigns of mystification, the truth is that, regardless of new dangers and risks, imperialism has just suffered another humiliating defeat in Afghanistan.

The determined resistance of countries and peoples against the violent action of imperialism proves that, despite the powerful means at its disposal, it cannot do everything and is covered in difficulties and contradictions.

What is rightly demanded is that the US and its allies not only definitively put an end to their interference in Afghanistan, but also to all their criminal military interventions, destabilising operations, sanctions and economic blockades.

What is rightly demanded is that the Portuguese government respect the Constitution and put an end to a policy of subordination to the US, NATO and the European Union, and to the involvement of Portugal and of Portuguese Armed Forces in wars against other peoples.

However, imperialism does not show signs of abandoning its aims, continuing its policy of interference and aggression, under the cover of a deceptive defence of human rights and democracy – which brutally disrespects and violates, and insists on a false fight against terrorism , as a screen for the continuation of its warmongering policy.

Despite tactical and circumstantial differences, the US continues its foreign policy, intensifying it in various areas and fields, seeking to safeguard the hegemony of US imperialism on the world stage.

Trying to settle contradictions, the US seeks to align its allies – starting with NATO and the EU – around its strategy of interference and aggression against all countries and peoples that do not submit to it and assert their sovereignty, while at the same time they heighten their policy of confrontation with China and Russia, which they define as their strategic foes.

Imperialism’s aggressiveness, more than strength, means weakness in the face of the structural crisis of capitalism and the relative decline of the USA and other capitalist powers, which they seek to counter by all means.

It is in this context that big capital intensifies its offensive to, instrumentalizing the pandemic situation, increase exploitation, attack fundamental rights and freedoms, promote the brutal worsening of inequalities, with the denial of the most elementary rights to millions of human beings.

Valuing the various struggles taking place all around the world, it is with great confidence that we greet the international delegations present at the Avante! Festival, reaffirming our solidarity to socialist Cuba and Bolivarian Venezuela and other countries and peoples of Latin America; to the peoples of Palestine, Syria, Yemen and other countries in the Middle East; to all peoples who face imperialism’s aggression and fight in defence of their rights and sovereignty.

We reaffirm that the convergence in action of the communists and other democrats is of the utmost importance, in a broad anti-imperialist front that stands up to the exploitative and aggressive onslaught of imperialism and paves the way for the construction of a new international order, of peace, democracy and social progress. A task that we consider inseparable from the strengthening of the international communist and revolutionary movement, with the strengthening of its cooperation and unity in action in favour of the concrete interests and aspirations of the workers, having in mind a society free from exploitation and oppression, through socialism.

We signal 100 years of struggle, the time of a full century, which put our Party to the test, but every day this test is done.

Many can say things, some manipulating to conceal their true goals, others saying loose words, more or less resounding, yesterday some, today others, tomorrow others quite different, but they are just that, words without a project, without organisation, without the ability to resist, without determination to defend rights and move forward.

Throughout its history and also in the difficult times of the last year and a half, the PCP has proved to be an unwavering force, the force that workers and people can count on in all circumstances, to resist, to defend freedom, democracy, rights, to fight for a better life and implement its Programme in the current stage – an Advanced Democracy, the April values in the future of Portugal.

The Party is its ideal and project, it is its class nature as a Party of the working class and of all workers and its link to the masses, it is its revolutionary aims, it is its Marxist-Leninist ideology, it is its principles of functioning, it is its patriotic and internationalist dimension, it is its organisation, it is its cadres and militants. The strength of our Party is inseparable from the affirmation of its communist identity, the values and characteristics it expresses, and is based on its great collective.

We salute the militant action of the Party and JCP members and the successes achieved in this Centenary year, the 102 new company and workplace cells created and the 119 new comrades who assumed responsibility for cells, the results of the national fundraising campaign , the development of the National Recruitment Campaign “The Future has a Party” with the joining of new militants.

At the beginning of this third decade of the 21st. century, in which capitalism confirms its exploitative, oppressive, aggressive and predatory nature, there is a need for its revolutionary overcoming and for the reaffirmation of the topicality of the communist ideal and project.

An ideal and project that opposes exploitation, injustice, discrimination and inequality, a mark of capitalism, a society without exploitation, of equality, justice, full employment, rights, working conditions and well-being.

That opposes oppression, the hallmark of capitalism, with a society of freedom and personal, individual and collective fulfilment.

That opposes aggression and war, the hallmark of capitalism, with a world based on peace and cooperation among peoples.

That opposes the predation of natural resources, a hallmark of capitalism, with a society and a world freed from the dictatorship of profit, based on harmony between human beings and nature of which they are a part.

We respond to great demands, we face difficulties and hurdles and we fight with great joy, for freedom, democracy and socialism, for the communist ideal “the ideal for which it is worth fighting and to which the future belongs”.

We call on the workers, women, all generations and, in a special way, we call on the youth, this great force with the energy and capacity to fight for the right to be happy, today and in the future, against obscurantism, for reason, science and progress, against exploitation, for equality and freedom, against resignation for participation, against giving up and fatalism for confidence in their own strength and in the capacity of the workers and peoples to ensure a path of peace and progress on our planet. This is also the reality of the struggle of our Party, the Portuguese Communist Party, throughout its history, this is the confidence with which we fight today and look to the times to come.

Long live the Avante! Festival
Long live JCP
Long live the Portuguese Communist Party