Please allow me to begin by conveying warmest greetings to all of you and to the whole great party collective, the main builder and guarantor of the Party that we have and that we are.
We are here to begin the proceedings of our National Conference. The intense preparatory work is behind, involving thousands of militants and practically all Party bodies, in hundreds of meetings, of elections and debates held throughout the country.
A wide process of collective discussion, where once again the democratic functioning of our Party is evident and which resulted in numerous proposals that contributed significantly to the enrichment and improvement of the Draft Resolution, whether in the field of political initiative or in terms of the struggle and the strengthening of mass organisations, or in terms of strengthening the Party.
And if, in the whole debate, there is a strong identification with the lines and priorities of work that the Draft Resolution points out, what is now being discussed here embodies the proposals resulting from that broad debate.
Two years have passed since the holding of our XXI Congress and life is confirming the timeliness and correctness of the analyses and decisions that we took at the time. In fact, there is no fundamental thesis that can be refuted with the facts of reality.
And so here we are, not because the guidelines issued by it no longer make sense, but because, in the meantime, rapid developments in important aspects of the evolution of the international and national situation, already identified at the time, began to place particular demands on the organisation and intervention of the Party, to the struggle of the workers and the people that had to be considered by the party collective for its immediate and future intervention.
This is the case of the heightening of imperialism's offensive and the policy of confrontation and war that it promotes and carries, articulated and supported by a brutal and manipulative ideological onslaught. At the Country’s level, it is the worsening of the economic and social situation and the lack of answers to national problems, which call for the redoubling of our initiative focused on their solution. It is the recent changes in the political framework that, as is happening, will tend to replicate, if not deepen, the negative evolution of the Country that decades of right-wing policies have imposed.
As we have said and life confirms it, the evolution of the international situation continues, essentially, marked by the exploitative, oppressive, aggressive and predatory nature of capitalism, by the deepening of its structural crisis.
As stated in our Conference's Draft Resolution, capitalism not only proves this incapacity, but is both a cause and a factor for the worsening of problems in the economic, social, political, cultural and environmental fields.
A reality that is patent in the use of both the pandemic and the instigation of confrontation and especially of sanctions, including in the context of the intensification of the war in Ukraine, which has resulted into a growing heightening of exploitation, inequalities and injustices and in the accumulation of capital in the hands of multinationals, the speed and intensification of this accumulation cannot being separated from a brutal speculative action that traverses the most diverse sectors, from finance to energy, from pharmaceuticals to agri-food, from mass distribution to arms and whose social consequences are expressed in a new and disproportionate leap in the growth of extreme poverty in the world.
An evolution that is not detached from the action of the forces of imperialism and its offensive, aiming to impose its hegemonic domination that they have been dangerously increasing and developing, namely with the escalation of the policy of confrontation, of which the militarist strategy of the United States and NATO is an expression with its continuing enlargement and intervention of a global nature.
An offensive in which the European Union finds itself in a position of extraordinary submission and dependence on US interests, in a process which includes the forces of the right and social democracy.
This strategy by imperialism - which includes the war in Ukraine and its continuation and the growing tension and provocation against China - carries with it the danger of a global confrontation with serious consequences for humanity.
Another increasingly clear and worrying feature of this evolution and this strategy by imperialism is the intensification of manipulation, lies and censorship of information, aiming to impose a single thought and vulgarise reactionary and fascistic conceptions in order, by promoting anti-communism, to attack democracy and to wane people's awareness of their legitimate rights and aspirations, and to close the doors to the alternatives for development and paths to emancipation.
Paths that peoples are treading with their resistance and struggle, in an irregular and complex process it is true, but where there are real possibilities to make headways.
Portugal is not immune to all these negative developments, the consequences of which are reflected in the country's political, economic and social life and are manifested adversely as a result of a decades-long disastrous capitalist and monopolistic restoration policy by PS, PSD and CDS governments that mortgaged national development and threw Portugal into a prolonged crisis.
We have extensively analysed the result of this decades-long process of right-wing policies and submission to the European Union and the Euro and, in general, to imperialism, which resulted in the surrender of control of national life to the great national and foreign capital and in a system of power that capital actually has in Portugal and that has in this policy an instrument at its service, acting on the fringes and against the Constitution.
The consequences have also been identified by us: worsened structural deficits in the productive, energy, technological and demographic fields, prolonged economic stagnation, increased exploitation of workers, growing social and territorial inequalities and strong negative impacts on the social level, on political participation, on the cultural, environmental and democratic regime itself. All this has marked the reality of a country that is fragile, vulnerable and dependent.
It is on top of this national reality, and considering its chronic problems, that it is necessary to look at and evaluate the recent developments that pose new problems and demands on our intervention and to the struggle of the workers and populations.
From the outset, the change in the correlation of forces at the political and institutional level with the obtaining of an absolute majority by the PS - accompanied by the reduction of the PCP's parliamentary representation, achieved on the basis of an operation of blackmail and mystification.
A change whose negative consequences for the people and the Country are very visible. If anyone had doubts about the true objectives of this operation, which was very Machiavellian due to the calculation and sophism it carried, reality is proving it.
This is proved by the set of options that they have been taking in the most diverse areas, whether in the fight against the increase in the cost of living that they do not assume, or in the false solutions that they presents in terms of labour legislation, wages and pensions, or in the choices that are leading to an increase in injustices and inequalities.
This is proved by the affinity of the PS with the PSD, the CDS, the IL and Chega in what was decisive to guarantee the interests of big capital, whether to make the PCP's proposals for a full replacement unfeasible, or fair for the labour and social rights extorted from workers, increased wages, the demand for price control and the taxation of outstanding profits thorough speculation.
Yes, this is proved by the deceit of increases in pensions that do not even replace the purchasing power lost in 2022, while at the same time projecting to degrade future pensions.
This is proved by the farce of the “revalorisation of wages” of the so-called Agreement on Income, which denies to wages what it gives in benefits and grants of billions to big capital, increasing exploitation.
This is proved by the resumption of the privatisation process that is already being seen in TAP, in the new PPPs being prepared in railways, in the transfer of millions to healthcare groups.
This is proved by its torpedoing the causes behind the inflationary surge that impoverishes and degrades the living conditions of the workers and people, blaming wages and leaving under shadows speculation by capital, under the cover of the epidemic and later of the war and sanctions.
This is proved by its refusal to tamper with major economic interests and their speculative discretionary power over prices, allowing them to run freewheeling and thus continue to amass millions and millions of profits that reach historic highs.
This is proved by its budgetary policy of the past and the one it projects for 2023 with a proposal for a State Budget that will deepen the impoverishment of the majority of the population, which will continue the degradation of the NHS, the Government's lack of responsibility for the Public School, public services and public investment, which exacerbates fiscal injustice, without substantive answers to the problems of housing, the rights of children and parents, the cultural sector, the difficulties of thousands of micro, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, in contrast to the advantages, privileges and tax benefits granted to economic groups.
Options that put the danger of a new phase of economic decline and social degradation on the near horizon.
This is what can be seen increasingly clearly, through the action of its ongoing policy of reducing family incomes, in a context of continuous interest rate increases, combined with its budgetary restriction policy dictated by the dictatorship of the deficit and the accelerated reduction of debt. The growing risk of rapidly throwing the Country into economic recession and even further deteriorating the lives of the people.
A danger of decline that is presented in a context of a worrying evolution of the external accounts and of a greater weakness of the Country, as shown by a worsening trade deficit and a balance of payments negatively registering the increase in the transfer of financial resources abroad, largely dividends, as a result of the increasing dominance of foreign capital over the national economy. Another 2.2 billion euros in the first seven months of 2022 compared to last year.
Today it is very clear what the meaning of the majority PS's governance is and how true the PCP's word was when it stated that the PS did not want to solve national problems, but only to break with the policy of defence, restoration and achievement of rights and create conditions to fully resume the right-wing policy that it has always embraced.
Yes, comrades, its governance shows a PS increasingly leaning to the right.
And this is one of the aspects of recent development that brings new problems that we have to address.
But if this change in the political framework poses such problems, others are added, such as the new situation of institutional expression and wide promotion of reactionary forces and projects, namely PSD, CDS, IL and Chega, with agendas of a retrograde, demagogic, neoliberal or fascist nature, in a context in which the PS and these forces inflate and stage an opposition among themselves, when in fact they develop, in essential aspects, a convergent action in the defence of the interests of big capital.
The Country's increased vulnerability in the face of an unstable global economic framework and a new accumulation of risks and crises, resulting from its external dependence and the existence of a weakened productive apparatus, is another new aspect that characterises the situation. As well as the intensification of the anti-democratic campaign, with a strong anti-communist bent, which tends to intensify. A campaign in which the revanchist action of big capital stands out, which believes that the time has come to raise the level of class confrontation and take further the settling of scores with the values and achievements of April.
Evident in the most recent developments is the explicit and growing confrontation with the Constitution of the Republic by the reactionary forces, with the aim of its amendment and subversion, along with the promotion of changes in an antidemocratic drift to electoral laws and labour legislation. The beginning of the constitutional amendment process now advanced and looking at the past experience of concertation between the PS and the group of reactionary forces, enemies of the April Constitution cannot reassure us.
All these recent developments place on the PCP, the workers and the democrats and patriots, as our Conference Resolution underlines, the need to understand the dangers that involve the plans and aims of capital and an attentive and adjusted evaluation in the definition of priorities regarding the tasks, claims and struggles in the near future.
But what all this evolution also shows very clearly, whether the past or the most recent, is the reason for the PCP regarding the assessment it has been making of the national and international situation and the solutions to ensure sovereign development of the country.
A fair and accurate assessment that calls for and reinforces the need to affirm an alternative policy that confronts the right-wing policy resulting from the action of the PS government and reactionary forces and projects.
A patriotic and left-wing alternative policy that needs to be affirmed, developed and enhanced. A policy that values work and strengthens the rights of the workers, the social functions of the State and public services, boosts and increases national production, ensures public control of companies and strategic sectors, guarantees fiscal fairness, assumes the defence of the environment, frees the country from submission to the Euro and from the impositions and constraints of the European Union and ensures national development and sovereignty, within a framework of defence of peace and cooperation between peoples.
The implementation of this patriotic and left-wing alternative policy, which the PCP proposes to the Portuguese people, requires the strengthening of the Party, the build-up of the struggle of workers and populations, as well as the convergence of democrats and patriots, determining conditions for a change in the relationship of forces.
Resisting the on-going onslaught against the rights of the workers and Portuguese people is the first step towards defeating the most immediate objectives of big capital and a necessary condition to pave the way for a different course for the country.
We know the path is hard. We know how much the brutal offensive against the PCP weighs, because it is what it is and does not give up being, with the class interests it assumes, the goals it fights for and the transforming project of social emancipation that it carries.
We know the campaigns to distort its positions, of slander and attempts at blackmail, conditioning and silencing to which the PCP is subject as a result of its courageous intervention mean and intend.
The ruling class – the masters in charge in the country – would have hoped that, in the face of the onslaught, the Party would have foundered and abdicated its principles and goals, submitting to its agenda and its criteria. To conceal from the people the truth about the use of the pandemic, the class options of the PS, the projects of the reactionary forces, the nature of NATO, the war and the sanctions. They were wrong and will continue to be wrong!
We are aware of the negative impacts on the electoral field, of institutional expression, of our difficulties, of our shortcomings and delays that have been identified and must be overcome.
We also know that the Party's action, the conditions of intervention and struggle result not only from its own decisions and choices, but also from the actions of its opponents and from the broader context – national and international – in which it intervenes.
But if we are aware of the constraints, conditionings and difficulties that exist today, we know that there are forces, capacities, resources and potential in Portuguese society to provide the response that the workers, the people and the country need. As we know that, above all, it is on the strength of the Party, on its ability to resist and advance that the evolution of the national situation will depend. And that redoubles our will!
We know from the experience we gathered that the path to resist and advance cannot be other than the one that has always proved itself: - to focus the Party's intervention on the response to concrete problems, on the desires and aspirations of the workers and the people, articulated with the struggle for an alternative policy and a fairer society. To connect the Party even more to life, to affirm it as the fundamental instrument of action and struggle. Strengthen the organisation, as a fundamental instrument of connection to workers and populations.
It is in this background that our National Conference proposes to develop the Party's action in an integrated manner, involving all these areas of action.
Thus, from the outset in terms of political action, there is a need to redouble our taking the initiative – whether at the central level or in the organisations – to solve the most pressing problems which the Portuguese workers and people are facing.
Yes, it is necessary to boost all our capacity and take the initiative, so often revealed, and with it, ensure the interests of the workers and our people.
Take the initiative for a general increase in wages. Act to break with a model based on low wages and precariousness. Fight the brutal increase in the cost of living and the scandalous profits of capital. Assume the general increase in wages as a national emergency in the private and public sectors, ensuring purchasing power, with a significant increase in the average salary, achieving convergence with the Euro Zone average in five years. Give strength to the fight for the amendment of the grievous rules of the Labour Code to guarantee this objective. Defence of the increase of the National Minimum Wage.
Take the initiative to promote the rights of children and parents. A very broad response is needed, which is also aimed at combating the demographic deficit, starting with the defence and advancement of workers' rights, the guarantee of decent housing, free daycare for all, respect for maternity and paternity rights, that ensure – in terms of education, healthcare, culture, sport, the right to play and to free time – the integral development of the individual.
Take the initiative, with the youth, for their rights, dreams and aspirations. With the students in defence of Public, Free and Quality Education, for the right to access Higher Education, for the end of tuition fees, for the reinforcement of School Social Action. With young workers for a decent wage, promoting the fight against precariousness, so that each permanent job corresponds to an effective employment bond, for the right to rest and to have free time, against the trial period. For the right of the youth to work, healthcare, social security, housing, sport, leisure, cultural creation and enjoyment, for their effective emancipation and autonomy.
Take the initiative to improve pensions and for the right to age with quality of life. The low value of pensions, which prevails among the vast majority of the elderly, and the speculative rise in prices make the need to increase their real value and combat their devaluation more pressing. It is necessary to correct the profound insufficiencies and weaknesses in the response to the problems of the elderly in the most diverse areas.
Take the initiative to defend and enhance the social functions of the State and public services. The improvement of public services is inseparable from the valorisation of its professionals, their wages and careers. All public services must be defended, but in healthcare, education and social security this is particularly pressing. We have to save the NHS with more investment and measures to attract and retain professionals. It is also necessary to reinforce public investment in science and research, as in other areas, from justice to security forces and services and civil protection.
Take the initiative in defence of culture as a factor of human achievement and emancipation. Promote the fight for the valorisation of the rights of artists and professionals in the sector and for the reinforcement of public investment with the objective of allocating 1% for culture.
Take the initiative for the valorisation of national production. An option that has to face the structural deficits that recent evolution in the international situation has made even more worrying. It requires diversifying productive activity and economic relations and replacing imports with national production. Promote food sovereignty. Reindustrialise. Regain public control over strategic companies and sectors and support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Develop research, knowledge, science and technology.
Take the initiative in defence of the environment and for access to water. Act in defence of territorial cohesion, valorise the rural world and forests, protect ecosystems and promote biodiversity. Ensure access to water as a right and not a business. Ensure the public management of waste, promoting its reduction, reuse and recycling.
Take the initiative for the right to housing, mobility and public transport. It is necessary to combat real estate speculation, repeal the Law on Urban Lease, regulate prices, face the brutal increase in interest rates and its impacts, substantially expand the public offer of housing and promote rentals for young people. Expand the offer of public transport and advance with the goal of progressive free travel.
Take the initiative for peace and solidarity with peoples. Combat imperialism's policies of confrontation and war and the arms race. Fight against the enlargement of NATO and for its dissolution. It is urgent to demand an end to the instigation of the war in Ukraine by the US, NATO and the European Union and the opening of paths of negotiation with the other players, namely the Russian Federation, aiming at a political solution to the conflict. Keeping alive solidarity with the peoples who resist imperialism and fight in defence of their rights and sovereignty.
Take the initiative in defending the democratic regime and April values. From the outset exercising the rights achieved, denouncing the right-wing policy, fighting the reactionary offensive, dismantling the dictatorship of the single thought, fighting racism and xenophobia, fascistic hate and all kinds of discrimination. Defend the Constitution of the Republic and fight any constitutional amendment projects that promote the de-characterization of the Basic Law or the change of electoral laws, aiming to reduce the pluralism of political representation and perpetuate right-wing policies. Promote the mobilisation of democrats and patriots in the fight against historical revisionism and the whitewashing of fascism, making the commemorations of the 50th. Anniversary of the Revolution a great affirmation of the values of April and of the struggle for a Portugal with a future.
Together with taking the initiative of political action and closely linked to its implementation, it is necessary to add and consider issues related to work among the masses. There are three lines of work that are pointed out and that cannot and should not be disconnected, rather be articulated with the lines of political initiative in the materialisation of concrete problems which are:
Develop and intensify the struggle of the workers and the popular masses, where it is essential to intensify and broaden the mass struggle around concrete objectives intimately linked with the major lines of political initiative that are now placed as priorities, involving the workers and populations, as well as specific strata and sectors;
Develop action to strengthen mass organisations and movements. This also requires the Party to assume its role in contributing to the action and strengthening of unitary mass organisations and movements, in unity with many others. Fundamental structures to express, develop and raise participatory democracy, intervention and struggle. We must highlight the organisation of the working class and workers in general, unionisation and union organisation in companies, trade unions, the unitary trade union movement, the CGTP-IN and the workers' committees. More than an aspiration taken in the abstract, the reality of mass organisations and movements needs to be dealt with in a concrete way, both at a more general level or within each of the organisations, aiming at the environment in which it operates and the mass organisations that must, as a priority, be the object of our intervention;
Develop liaisons and work with other democrats and patriots driven by the Party, as an aggregating force that favours convergence and unity, of a broad work with other democrats and patriots, either within the framework of the CDU or on a wider level, assuming regular contacts by every organisation with those who stand out in collective life, as well as with very different personalities and sectors, from culture to science, from sport to the associative movement.
And finally, inseparable from all the other dimensions that appeal to our initiative and intervention, measures to strengthen the Party are pointed out which, in their own right, are essential for the implementation of everything else.
In this context, we must stress the allocation of more responsibilities and training cadres, a decisive issue for expanding the response capacity and developing party action.
They require effective integration into collective work, the stimulation and use of individual contributions and the involvement of militants in the discussion, decision and implementation of the Party's objectives and its intervention in society. It requires the development of action to strengthen leadership structures at various levels – from central leadership to regional organisations, from intermediate structures to grassroots organisations. The aim is to give responsibilities to at least 1000 new cadres, either for regular tasks or for organisations by the end of 2024.
Strengthening the Party with the recruitment and integration of new militants is another priority. It is necessary to carry out the recruitment campaign “The future has a Party”, intensifying contacts and taking the Party's attractiveness even further.
The effective strengthening of the Party is essential to strengthen its organisation and intervention with the working class and all workers. Party cells are key elements in this process. The success of the recent action to hold 100 comrades accountable in this area and the creation of as many company cells shows that it is possible to build a Party in the workplace. In the immediate future, it is pointed out that a major national action should be carried out, including several objectives, under the slogan "More strength to the workers", to be promoted during the first months of 2023, culminating in an initiative that projects this reality at the end of the month of May.
There is also the need to promote a broad initiative from the local organisations of the Party and to promote decisively its structuring, leadership and intervention capacity. The idea is to promote a broad intervention by the Party, giving expression to the motto "Living better in our land" which, based on the aspirations and problems felt in the localities, boosts activity and local life and contributes to the mobilisation and fight for its materialisation. An intervention that will culminate in the last quarter of 2023.
In terms of the press and party propaganda, in a context in which the Party fundamentally depends on its own means to project its positions, the campaign regarding Avante! starting in April 2023 and ending in May 2024, with the aim, among others, of increasing its promotion and regular sales and, within a framework of intensified reflection and practical measures regarding propaganda, the aim is to hold a national initiative in this area in November 2023. Financial issues are also raised, as an essential aspect for the political and ideological independence of the Party, with emphasis on the role and value of dues and practical measures to guarantee their collection.
The integrated action put forward in the Draft Resolution of the National Conference does not cancel out, but rather articulates, with other dimensions of the Party's intervention in multiple specific problems that affect strata and sectors as diverse as small and medium-size farmers and entrepreneurs, intellectuals and technical staff, women, the elderly, immigrants, emigrants, people with disabilities, as well as the fight against all discrimination and prejudice, particularly on the basis of sexual orientation, aspects that require the commitment and intervention of the militants and organisations of the Party.
We have a Party that is equipped with an alternative political program that needs to be affirmed.
A Party with an unparalleled heritage of intervention and struggle. A Party that since its creation has always been able, together with the workers, with the people and their struggle, to overcome the most serious hurdles, the most dangerous situations, the most serious challenges and serve our people and our Country.
A Party with a broad militant collective with proven dedication to the cause of the workers and the people and with an intervention that does not leave out any of the dimensions of the country's life and that does not give up or rest in achieving a Portugal of progress and future . A Party that counts on the JCP and its outstanding role with the youth.
A Party that firmly and courageously assumes its communist identity. A Party that makes all the difference because its ideology, its policies, its political project are different. A difference that is distinguished in its own identity: class nature, revolutionary theory - Marxism-Leninism -, internal democracy based on the creative development of democratic centralism, mass line, project of socialism, patriotism and internationalism.
A Party which holds a project for the future. The Party bearer of solutions and the alternative project, against capitalism and for its revolutionary overcoming, for advanced democracy linked to the values of April, to respond to the concrete needs of Portuguese society for the current historical stage, for socialism and communism.
Here we are, carrying the baton that generations of communists bequeathed to us and that current and new generations will carry with the same confidence in the justice of our struggle and of our Party in search of the new society.
As stated in the Resolution of our Conference, in the last hundred years there has been no progress or achievement in our Country that has not counted on the struggle and intervention of the communists. The PCP, with the struggle of the workers and the people, influenced and still influences the evolution of national life. This is not only a responsibility but a duty that the PCP does not abdicate and that gives strength and confidence to resist and move ahead.
It is with this confidence that we have never lacked that we look to the future that we want to build with the workers and with our people!