Dear comrade delegates
Esteemed comrades and friends, national and international guests
Our Party arrives at this 18th. Congress anchored on ideals and goals, on answers to the situations and problems, with a very clear idea on the course we want to follow, not only of consolidation, but of political, organizational, social and electoral progress and growth. It is an outward-looking Congress, that focuses on action and struggle, with the workers and the people.
At the same time - in our own way, the Communist way - we held a broad debate on the Draft Political Resolution, with a unique and democratic participation of over 26 thousand members. It is not only those who prophesized our death who were wrong. Also wrong were those who announced that we would be surviving in decline.
We did not die, nor did we merely “survive”. Thrashed by the storms of political and ideological offensive, facing the tempest head-on, we stand on our feet, we grow and we march forward without feeling disheartened by conjunctural defeats or resting on our victories, anchored to our nature, ideology and project. The disappointment and silence of those prophets, regarding our 18th. Congress, reminds us of the fable of the fox and the grapes.
They jumped trying to catch the bunch of grapes. Now, seeing the Party’s vigour, they shrug their shoulders and say “the grapes are not ripe, they are sour”. Those who, like us, fight for democracy and socialism, are aware that beyond the horizon we see - at the next bend in the road, however curved it may be - there will be yet more road to travel in a long but fascinating process of social change for which we strive.
We arrive at this 18th.Congress without the presence of comrades Sérgio Vilarigues, José Vitoriano and Álvaro Cunhal. From their lives we draw the example of their revolutionary struggle, their whole life dedicated to their Party, to the workers and the Portuguese people. Of Álvaro Cunhal we shall keep at the heart of our memory his example and shall use his work as a tool for action and for the political and ideological struggle.
We arrive at the 18th.Congress with objectives that can be summarized in the slogan “For April, for Socialism – a stronger Party”. “For April”, with everything it represented in terms of freedom, transformation, achievement and conquest – elements that constitute an advanced democracy in the political, economic, social and cultural fields and in the assertion of national sovereignty. “For socialism”, as a goal of the PCP’s programme, with communism on the horizon.
“For socialism” - as an alternative system to capitalism and a real possibility and the most solid prospect in the evolution of Humankind - where our struggle at the national level is the first and indispensable condition for the development of solidarity, cooperation and internationalist struggle.
“For a stronger Party”, a central and ever-present issue in our action and struggle, of our priorities, in itself inseparable and a decisive condition to build and attain the objectives we propose.
Comrades, We hold our Party’s 18th Congress in the context of one of the most serious crises of capitalism, whose world impact is yet to appear in its full extent.
We are facing the worst crisis since the “great depression” of 1929, and it results from the development of an acute contradiction between overproduction and over-accumulation of means of production on one hand, and the shrinkage of markets and consumption resulting from the diminution of the masses’ purchasing power on the other, namely due to the devaluation of the labour incomes, but also due to the brutal and increasing disproportion in the distribution of wealth. At the same time this crisis confirms capitalism’s inability to free itself from the crises that shake it periodically and reveals a deeper systemic and structural crisis, that exposes the capitalist system’s historical limits.
To overcome it through revolution is a demand of our times. The ruling class, and the governments at their service, try to answer the crisis with huge operations of transfer of debts and losses from the financial institutions to the public coffers, in an attempt to make the workers and the peoples pay its costs, while leaving unchanged the power and domination of those responsible for the crisis.
The scope, depth and consequences of this crisis confirm how right the analyses of our 17th Congress were. Fundamental traits and trends that appeared in an unprecedented rhythm in the process of centralization and concentration of capital and wealth, led to more strength and power for the great multinational corporations and to destruction for the less developed and more dependent economies. The wide financialization of the economy with the explosion of credit and fictitious money, was another characteristic that emphasized, instead of productive investment, the irrationality and anarchy of the capitalist system. These traits and trends also appeared in the deepening social polarization, inside each country, including the great capitalist powers, and around the world.
Attacks against the social functions of the State were stepped up, aiming at the commercialization of all spheres of social life, in a logic of privatizing everything than could bring more returns on capital. There was a clear growth of the parasitic and decadent nature of capitalism, with power occupied by organized crime and all types of criminal traffic flourishing - with the cover and complicity of international banks, specially the off-shores.
This evolution has been and is accompanied by developments in the political, cultural, ideological and military fields, in a very clear reactionary or even fascist-leaning, direction. It is this background of the evolution of the capitalist system, while clearly showing the roots of the present crisis, these past four years brought about significant developments!
Firstly, with the evolution of the situation in the US - where the crisis exposed the very serious problems of a high deficit economy, indebted and increasingly dominated by the military-industrial complex, with extremely serious social problems and a colossal foreign debt. In spite of undeniable US military superiority, its scientific and technological potential, its economic power and its privileged position as the main world financial centre are now weakened, as seen in the devaluation and discredit of the US dollar and in the fact that its role as an international reserve currency is now being openly questioned. A significant change also resulted from the strengthening of the European Union as an imperialist bloc.
But, the significant developments that weigh in the balance of forces at the international level have been the increasing international weight of China, resulting from its economic development, the appearance of other great countries like India, Brazil, Russia and the processes of regional cooperation and integration that tend to counter the hegemonic aims of the US and other great powers and show that their influence is no longer absolute.
The past four years were marked by the increase of imperialist offensive, embodying a vindictive and violent process of retaliation against the struggle of the workers and the peoples and with 20th century history. The militarization of international relations has been the aspect of the imperialist offensive that grew most in the last years - with the widespread idea of “preventive wars” and the recurrent use of violence - supported by the idea of “fighting international terrorism”.
The tearing down of international treaties essential to strategic balance; the setting up of the so-called American “anti-missile defence system” in Europe; the expansion of NATO and US military bases to the borders of Russia; the militarization of Germany; the provocations against China; the “return to Africa” by various military powers – are all clear examples of the global nature of imperialism’s military and geo-strategic offensive and of the associated re-colonizing intentions. It is a fact that is from imperialism’s political and military centres that the insecurity and dangers that characterize the international situation emanate.
This is very clear in the fact that the military budgets of the US and its main NATO allies reach record figures, in the importance that the nuclear issue regained in their multimillionaire military projects and in the strengthening of imperialism’s strategic and military coordinating structures, particularly in NATO, which during this period deepened its nature as a global organisation of an offensive nature and proves its role as imperialism’s “shock troops”.
This evolution strengthens the demand for its dissolution, as stated by the Portuguese Constitution. It is a fact that the world finds itself facing great dangers, not be underestimated. But it is also clear that these dangers coexist with a strong resistance by the workers and the peoples, with a real potential for a progressive, or even revolutionary, development. The struggle of the working class and of millions of workers in all continents continued.
The struggle of the peasants and farm workers in several countries continued also. The struggle spread in a strong way to other layers of the population. Resistance against the policy of interference, aggression and war, particularly by the US, represented a marked aspect of the peoples’ struggle in defence of their sovereignty and inalienable right to decide their fates, specially in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon, Cuba and Venezuela, as well as in Syria, Iran, PDR Korea, the Balkans, Colombia or Cyprus, where decisive battles for the future of these peoples and the stability of these regions continue. They all deserve the active solidarity of the Portuguese communists.
This solidarity extends to the struggle of peoples for their self determination and independence, as in Palestine, Western Sahara, Cyprus, and for the consolidation of the democratic process of national independence, as in East Timor. The evolution of the situation in Latin America in a progressive and anti-imperialist direction - in spite of the contradictory traits and diversity of processes - is one of the most encouraging examples of the progress of liberation struggles since the 17th Congress.
The revolutionary example of socialist Cuba has been an important stimulus to the progressive changes in Bolivarian Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and other countries. The convergence of the struggle of peoples for their national and social liberation with the struggle of the working class and the workers and other anti-monopolist strata, today is a central task of all the forces opposing capitalism’s hegemony.
At a time which is still of resistance and gathering of forces, but also of great progressive and revolutionary potential, huge responsibilities lie upon the Communist Parties and the international communist and revolutionary movement. In view of the crisis of capitalism, and the dangers it holds, it is up to the communist and revolutionary movement to develop the widest cooperation among anti-imperialist progressive and revolutionary forces, fighting reformism and spontaneity, and vigorously fighting the dominating ideology.
Socialism, as a goal of the PCP’s programme, with communism in the horizon, not only shows the superiority of the values of freedom and social justice that drive communists in their struggle against capital, but also represents, nowadays, a real possibility, an increasingly necessary and urgent one.
This strong conviction of the PCP is based upon three fundamental pillars. The first, a materialistic and dialectical conception of History, for whose scientific expression Marx and Engels brought decisive contributions and Lenin deepened during the times of imperialism.
The second, the universal historic significance of the October Revolution, in the pioneering construction of a new society in the USSR and other historic experiences of socialism.
Experiences that meant achievements and gains of great value, demonstrated and demonstrate the superiority of socialism, in spite of the great setbacks at the end of the century with the destruction of the USSR and the defeats of socialism in Eastern Europe, and whose reasons we should continue to study.
The third, the PCP’s conviction that at present socialism is increasingly necessary and urgent, is based upon the analysis of the capitalist system and its trends of current development, afflicted as it is by insurmountable contradictions. Capitalism is not only incapable of satisfying the interests and aspirations of the workers and the peoples, but endangers humanity itself.
The contradiction between the huge potential of the achievements of science and technology and the terrible retrogressions affecting contemporary times – unemployment, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental catastrophes – themselves represent a violent accusation of the capitalist system and the confirmation that only socialism can answer the deepest aspirations of the workers and the peoples and save Humanity from the catastrophe announced by capital’s greed. It is with this deep conviction that the PCP proclaims, to Portugal and the world, that socialism is a real possibility and the most solid prospect for Humanity’s evolution.
The unfolding of the country’s economic, social and political situation, since our 17th.Congress is marked by a new phase, more intense and more global, of offensive by the right-wing forces, now led by the PS government.
The formation of the government - a few months after our last Congress and the election of Cavaco Silva to the Presidency of the Republic, the first victory of a right-wing candidate to this institution - politically and institutionally signifies the affirmation and consolidation of a power bloc at the service of great economic and financial groups.
The action of the PS government in these more than three and half years of governance, confirms not only the PS’s expected intention of continuing the essential aspects of the right-wing policy carried out by PSD and CDS-PP, but also the deliberate purpose of aggravating them after gaining an absolute majority.
The assumption by the PS government of the agenda of big capital and its objectives, driven by the election of Cavaco Silva and his “Strategic Cooperation”, has thus meant a brutal worsening of the living conditions of the workers and the people, with increasing foreign dependence and subordination of the country and a worrying impoverishment of the democratic regime.
The worsening of the country´s situation cannot be separated from the evolution of the European Union and the nefarious influence of its neoliberal policies, or from the processes that intervene in the configuration of the so-called “European integration”. An evolution which during the last four years was marked, together with the pursuit and deepening of the policies at the service of big multinational corporations and great financial interests, by the rejection in 2005 of the “European Constitution” Treaty by the peoples of the Netherlands and France, and more recently by the Irish people, in the re-painted version called “Lisbon Treaty”.
The PCP, who vigorously fought against this project, reaffirms its firm determination to continue to fight for its rejection, coherently assuming its pledges to the Portuguese people. In these years that separate us from the 17th Congress, the materialization of the “Lisbon Strategy” and its Agenda continued intensely, aimed at liberalizing and privatizing public services and services in general, dismantling public administration and deregulating the labour market. In terms of agriculture and fisheries, the guidelines that have contributed to the destruction of these sectors in our country have continued and worsened
. The community’s financial framework for 2007-2013 has continued, like before, to penalize the economically lesser developed countries, and conditioning aids to acceptance of the “Lisbon Strategy”.
New steps were taken in the attack against the functions of sovereignty, by pursuing a common justice policy, while implementing a of immigration policy of a security-obsessed, selective and repressive nature.
During this period, the militarization of the European Union went ahead with the strengthening and creation of new military capacities and the continuation of military missions. In view of this militarization, the PCP reaffirms its refusal of any solution that reinforces the federal nature of the European Union institutions and the neoliberal offensive against the social and civilizational rights of the workers and the peoples.
The results of the referenda in the countries where the peoples had the possibility to voice their rejection of this “European integration” and the significant struggles that took place all over Europe emphasize the need to strengthen cooperation, namely among the left forces, and the convergence of all those who fight for a solution for Europe of an anti-capitalist social transformation. The PCP will continue to assume as a priority the continuation and cooperation among communists and other left and progressive forces and remains deeply commited to the defence, consolidation, strong intervention and affirmation of the unitary, confederal and progressive nature of the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left of the European Parliament. The European Union with its present guidelines and objectives continues to be one of the main foundations of the class policy carried out in Portugal and one of the main defenders and excuses that question the project of a patriotic development set down in the Constitution of the Republic.
Three vectors in the current community framework clash, in an increasingly determining way, with the national economy and the future of the country itself: the accent on a confederal configuration under the political and economic command of the great powers; the consolidation of the euro area and its management by the ECB, with the loss of monetary and exchange policies and limitations imposed on the budgetary policy; the prevalence of the neoliberal theses and guidelines supporting the Lisbon Strategy, which also include the WTO agenda and that of several bilateral trade agreements. All together, together with a growing structural foreign dependency, they represent strong drawbacks, limitations and hurdles to the economic development of the country.
Portuguese society today has an economic and social structure dominated by the dictatorship of the monopolist economic groups associated to transnational capital. Although they already wield highly monopolized power over a number of strategic sectors and areas – both for the nation and the economy – these groups have been strengthening their monopolist nature. Portugal’s economic growth has slowed down decade after decade, reaching its lowest figure in the 2000/2007 period. Contrary to what the government has tried to suggest, the worsening of the country’s present economic situation is prior to the worsening of the international financial crisis.
The result of years of right-wing policy has meant an economy characterized by the consolidation of a productive structure with low added value, based upon the exploitation of cheap and casual labour and the continuation of severe structural deficits, resulting from an insufficient production of material goods (food and industrial), energy, transport and logistics, and research and development. The budgetary policy, aligned with the Growth and Stability Pact, has been seen as a basic instrument by successive governments in following the central objectives of a right-wing policy, among which reconfiguring the State along neoliberal lines. The policy of privatizations is banishing the State from the entrepreneurial sphere of production of material goods and of services, essential to the economic development of the country. The PS government has struck a new blow with its privatization program (PORTUCEL [paper pulp], EDP [energy], GALP [oil], Siderurgia [steel], EDA, ANA [airports], Estradas de Portugal [roads], E.P. , Águas de Portugal [water supply], National Forests).
Regarding the fiscal policy, while the weight of taxation on workers grows, the government maintains the real taxation rate for the financial sector ten or more percentage points below the nominal rate, and grants 2 thousand million euros in tax benefits to the Madeira [Islands] off-shore, thus supporting and financing the speculative banking and financial sector. The investment policy has for many years been below the quantity and quality needs of our economy.
Since 1997, public investment has been losing its weight in total investment, and no longer holds a dynamizing role in the economy. The policies of successive governments have made foreign capital the central feature of the country’s development Foreign capital has been occupying important and strategic areas in Portuguese economy, even absorbing a significant part of EU funds and public aids.
The evolution of the situation at the social level has worsened extraordinarily in recent years. The action of the PS government and its parliamentary majority, has taken new and serious steps to destroy the rights gained by the workers and the Portuguese people. The Public Education System, Social Security and the National Health Service have suffered one of the greatest attacks during these past years.
The changes in the Labour Code, now consummated, renouncing previous pledges made by PS during the previous the PSD/CDS-PP approval [of the LC], represents an unacceptable weakening of labour relations and creates conditions to increase exploitation, namely by legalizing labour casualness, making dismissals easier, eliminating the principle of favourable treatment to the worker, increasing work hours and liquidatiing of collective bargaining. In a coordinated and simultaneous way, Government is undertaking a very strong legislative attack against Public Administration workers, aimed at taking away rights and weakening labour relations.
With the worsening of the policy that increased inequalities, around 18% of the Portuguese population lives below the poverty line, almost three million Portuguese live with less than 10 euros a day and over 230 thousand with less than 5 euros.
While the cost of living and the housing costs have reached the highest figures of the past years, the wages are being downgraded and increasingly deviating from the European Union average, family debts have reached unsustainable levels, the living standard of most of the population is falling fast.
The evolution of wages - in continuous downfall - of jobs and unemployment during the last years explains why Portugal remains one of the countries with the highest unbalances in the distribution of income. Unemployment rates have reached the highest figures of the past two decades and casualness has become State policy, affecting around one million two hundred thousand workers. With the PS government, unemployment protection has also been significantly reduced.
The situation of the youth has particularly worsened with the action of the present government. The increase in casualness and unemployment and the low wages, the changes in education – with higher school fees and an elitization of education – and the housing policy, are some of the facts that jeopardize their future and the right to a dignified life.
Regarding Social Security, the PS government with its counter-reform, has made great changes, overturning Social Security’s public, universal and solidarity-based nature, with serious repercussions in the attack against the right to retirement and a dignified pension, with both an immediate and a long term diminution of the retirement and pension amounts.
During this period, the levels of exploitation and systematic violation of the rights of working women continued to grow, namely those concerning pregnancy, maternity and family support, while degrading their wages, affected by great wage inequalities. The situation of disabled persons, specially vulnerable to situations of social marginalization, was made worse by the diminution of the disabled workers’ rights and the turnbacks in labour casualty compensation payments.
The last few years have seen an unprecedented attack against the National Health Service and the present government has worsened it in a violent way. It is an attack based upon a strategy to degrade the public offer of healthcare and closing of services, with a promiscuous alignment of PSD/CS-PP and PS governments with the great financial groups, who see a great business opportunity in health.
The policy of avoiding State responsibilities is aimed at delegating healthcare to non-public bodies, by contracting out or privatizing services, and also by making families bear a growing part of healthcare costs. In education, continuing the right-wing policy, during the last four years new and qualitative steps were taken in the attack against free and high-quality Public Education for all, and in promoting private education, going against the Basic Law on Education and the Constitution of the Republic itself.
In a context where education has already become a very new business opportunity for capital, the PS government closed down more than 3,000 Basic [elementary] schools, executed an indirect privatization of education, as for example in the so-called Activities of Curricular Enrichment.
It is within the context of devaluing Public Schools that we can include the imposition of a new model of school management in pre-schooling, basic and secondary teaching establishments, the delegation of new competencies on local government in the area of basic schooling and the measures being implemented in special education, together with attacks against schools specializing in the teaching of arts.
At the University level, the PS government does not hesitate in dismantling this important heritage of the Portuguese people, by imposing organization models based upon the Bologna Process, by stratifying into short cycles, by establishing a financing model that takes away responsibilities from the State with an unacceptable application of tuition fees. Regarding Science, Technology and Innovation, the situation remains marked by under financing.
The cultural policy of the present government is also marked by the abandonment of public responsibility in the cultural policies, as witnessed in the continuing budgetary asphyxiation; in the privatization and handing over to the market of activities, equipment and property; in the elitization and use of “prestigious” initiatives.
A new and disturbing facet of the political situation is the growing number of curbs on freedoms and the gradual impoverishment of Portugal's democracy.
The deterioration of political democracy is a result of the economic and social offensive. Its most serious expressions are: citizens' freedoms and safeguards placed under siege; strengthened repressive apparatus; attacks against democratic local government; blatant partisan usage of institutions, placing them at the service of the political party in power; the legislation on Political Parties and their financing. The current PS and PSD proposals also tend toward deterioration and impoverishment of the democratic regime.
Using the recurrent excuse of the need for a so-called political system reform, the new draft election laws - favouring a two-party arrangement and less plurality - are a key element in achieving this. Concerning the curbs on essential rights and safeguards, they surface especially in the impediments placed on the exercise of trade-union rights and on the right to associate, in the limitations on the right to strike, in the growing coercion against free speech and the right to demonstrate and the curbs against the right to propaganda.
With the PS government, the attack against local governments and their autonomy has had fresh negative developments, particularly with the adoption of a new financial framework and the abolition of the Tourism Regions. The Laws on Political Parties and their Financing are also being confirmed as key elements in the operation to gradually curb rights and impoverish democracy, with serious limitations being imposed on political parties' sovereign right to decide on their forms of operation and organization - in several cases these regulations are directed specifically against the PCP. As the result of a long debasement process, political and democratic life has today been gradually reduced to just the formal aspects of contemporary bourgeois democracies, common to most capitalist countries and far removed from the democratic regime born of the  Revolution and enshrined in the 1976 Constitution. Under the current government, the process to debase the State's role, as provided for in the Constitution, has been given a new boost. In the Domestic Security sphere, the PS government has embarked on a wide-ranging and dangerous restructuring and reorganization plan for this important State sector, with a view to concentrating and militarizing it, and to placing it under government control. The PS's judicial policy is also characterized by an unprecedented offensive to substantially change the judiciary system's nature, organization and operation.
This reconfiguration of the whole current judicial setup seeks to governmentalize it and control it, placing curbs on the Ministério Público's [Public Attorney's] autonomy and on the judiciary's independence. In respect of National Defence and the Armed Forces, in these last four years, the basic tenets of right-wing policies followed by earlier governments have been strengthened, particularly as regards military doctrine, restructuring, military infra-structure and equipment renewal, legislation and personnel.
The Government's draft Armed Forces reorganization proposal involves merely expanding the scope of the Defence Ministry's role, to the detriment of the three Forces' roles, standardizing our armed forces within a limited scope: using them in multinational forces - thus obeying the priorities set out in NATO's Strategic Concept and the European Union's militarization policy. Armed Forces personnel policy has been to maintain special duties while suppressing rights, and introducing new disturbing measures for the military, thus generating indignation and protests.
The situation in the media sector has been one of growing control of big business over the mass media, thus continuing on a course that reduces quality and pluralism in information journalism, while journalists and other professions in the sector have had their rights, working conditions and autonomy eroded. This has contributed to an impoverishment in Portugal's culture and democracy.
The difficulties the country is undergoing, the continually worsening economic and social situation, social inequalities and injustices are not an unavoidable fact of life. They are the result of right-wing choices and policies. Portugal does not necessarily have to endure economic stagnation, a withering productive apparatus, persistent chronic energy and food deficits, a development model based on low salaries, or backwardness.
There is another road, with other policies, to serve the people and the country. The alternative policies that the PCP stands for, are set out in the PCP's programme, “An Advanced Democracy on the threshold of the 21st century”.
Advanced democracy, with its four inseparable aspects - political, economic, social and cultural - involves five goals in which, together with a regime of freedom, with a democratic, representative, participative and modern State, a policy of cultural democratization and an independent and sovereign homeland, we stand for economic development based on a mixed, modern and dynamic economy and for a social policy capable of ensuring better living conditions for the people.
The alternative policy that the PCP presents and proposes involves a real change of goals and content in national politics, a policy of effective trust in Portugal and the Portuguese people, a policy based on activating the economy and achieving sustained economic growth. Our draft Theses identify a number of key elements in the new economic and social policy we stand for, to respond to the problems being faced by the Portuguese people and by the country.
Breaking with current policies and building new alternative policies implies determined struggle against the current PS government's policies, and steadfast resistance to its offensiveagainst social rights and gains. Central elements in this break with the right-wing policies, are breaking with: the domination of monopoly capitalism; the reconfiguration of the State as a tool to serve the accelerated accumulation of private capital; the “obsession” with the budget deficit; the devaluing of labour and of workers; the mutilation and subversion of social policies – education, health and social security; the granting of a strategic place in the country's economy to foreign capital; economic growth centered essentially on an export dynamic, with disdain and lack of protection for the domestic market; the European capitalist integration process; subordination of the land and seas that are under national sovereignty to a logic that is foreign to the country's interests; subversion of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic.
The alternative policy which the PCP stands for, represents a broad assertion of national sovereignty. It provides answers for the great difficulties that the majority of our people face and opens up horizons and prospects of hope and confidence in a more fair and developed Portugal.
In these 4 years of a fierce offensive against the rights of the workers and the population and of attacks against the democratic regime and national sovereignty, the mass struggle, with particular prominence for the workers' struggle, was a determining factor in opposing and confronting this offensive, and has contributed to raise social and political awareness.
With a PS absolute majority - in a context where capitalism appeared triumphant and as the ultimate stage of human societies; where the ruling classes imposed their values and dominant ideology, of the cult of the individual, of an end to the class struggle, of the end of the need for class-based political and social organizations; in a context where social-democracy surrendered to capital and where verbally radical and leftist forces became institutionalized, creating the illusion that the class struggle and workers' organizations were being replaced by concertation and organized “movementism”, labeled as “citizenship” - the struggle of the working class and of the workers, but also of other non-monopolist strata and classes, its strength and size, its diversity and degree of convergence, its causes and goals, have confirmed the relevance and importance of the mass struggle, as a fundamental factor to halt right-wing policies and to assert and defend rights and transform society.
The struggle was, and is, worthwhile. And it is no exaggeration to say that in these 4 years, the role of the Communists and their Party, the PCP, has confirmed its irreplaceable character, inspiring, mobilizing, instilling confidence and prospects to the mass struggle, in a dialectical relation with the Party's overall political and institutional work. Life itself has tested and confirmed our thesis that when you fight, you may not always win, but when you do not fight, you always lose.
Developing the struggle, strengthening the mass movements and stepping up political activity requires a continual assessment of reality and its developments – in particular the alignment of class forces and the various aspects that relate to it. But the alignment of class forces is essential to assess class contradictions, the existing balance of forces, the social alliances, the prospects for the short- and medium-term struggle, to assess solutions for the existing situation and the prospects for a break with these right-wing policies.
A key idea that must be stated is that the Government's policies are policies to serve big capital; that those policy decisions affect, not just workers' interests and rights, but also those of other strata and classes. The main fault line that separates and divides interests, and defines contradictions and confrontations, is the line between the big economic and financial capital, sections of the medium bourgeoisie and political clienteles on the one hand and, on the other hand, the overwhelming majority of the Portuguese population, workers, pensioners, retired people, young people, women, intellectuals and technical workers, farmers, fishermen, micro-, small and medium businesspeople.
The contradictions and conflicts between these classes and strata do not disappear. But a break with these disastrous policies will become all the more achievable, the broader the convergence in the struggle. They may march in parallel, but it is possible to fight together. In a struggle where the driving force are the working class and the workers, as has happened in the 4 years since our 17th Congress. Our draft Political Resolution details the extraordinary scale of many of these struggles, from the company struggle to the general strike. From the struggle on the shop floor or at the doors of the Ministry, to the demonstration by 200 thousand workers in the streets of Lisbon, to the general strike of the Public Employees, of the private sector workers, to the impressive teachers' demonstrations.
These are struggles that have developed around causes and demands which – incorporating general goals and widespread problems – raise the population's awareness and the fighting spirit and where the important role of broad unity movements has been confirmed.
The dynamic that was created by [the Trades Union Central] CGTP-IN, by the trade union and workers' council movements, by other sectors, organizations and broad movements, such as the association of small and medium farmers and their confederation CNA, by the associations of micro-, small and medium businesspeople, the organizations of technical workers and intellectuals, the student unions, the youth, women's and peace movements, the organizations of pensioners and handicapped people, the associations of the military and trade-union associations of the security forces' members, the cultural and recreational clubs, the parents' associations and movements of users, specifically the Movements of Users of Public Services – all these have contributed to confront the right-wing policies, have expanded the protests and created a broad social front of struggle.
This has not been enough to defeat the offensive. But it has hindered it, has created disarray and forced the PS Government to retreat in many areas where it thought it could implement its harmful policies and measures at will.
The working class and working people have shown and reaffirmed that they are the determining force in the social process of resistance, struggle and transformation. Crediting these factors with their due importance is all the more relevant if we consider the national and international context in which these struggles were waged, if we consider the heightened exploitation, the attacks against workers' rights and their class organizations. But it was in this context that the struggle – due to its size, intensity and extent – has been comparable to the most significant moments of struggle since the April Revolution. CGTP – Intersindical Nacional confirmed itself and asserted itself as the major trade union central of the Portuguese workers, based on its nature, principles and goals, with its roots among the workers, their interests and rights.
From this Platform of the 18th Congress, we wish to greet this organized force of hundreds of thousands of workers, of thousands of trade union leaders, of tens of thousands of shop stewards, who are the fundamental resource and guarantee of the CGTP-IN's role and class independence. The concerted offensive by capital and the government – who encourage lines of division and diversion within the trade union movement – the international pressure, the adoption of harmful changes to the Labour Code, the intensification of the class struggle, all raise new and greater demands.
The Communist militants who are elected by their fellow workers have special responsibilities in defending the CGTP-IN's nature and programmatic principles, in acting to defend the workers' rights and interests, in the strategic appraisal of trade union activity in the companies and shop floors. This greeting involves the hundreds of members of workers' councils, sub-councils and their coordinating structures – in defence of these structures as democratic instruments of the workers and their role of cooperation and convergence with the united trade union movement. We greet all the movements, associations and organizations, and their thousands of leaders, who fight and work for concrete causes and demands, in diverse ways, within this broad front of struggle, materializing their right to a participatory democracy.
The PS Government's offensive, whilst not new, is characterized by its global breadth and depth – in the political, economic, social, cultural areas and regarding national sovereignty. With a complacent right-wing, who is slightly envious of the fact that economic powers continue to view the PS as the most adequate saddle on which to ride, to further their interests and privileges – the PCP has shown that it is, in real terms, the most consistent, determined and capable force when it comes to fighting against these policies.
It has done so with its feet on the ground, interpreting the problems and aspirations of workers and communities, supporting and encouraging the mass struggle, developing an outstanding mass and institutional political activity. In the Assembly of the Republic [Parliament], in the European Parliament, in the Madeira Regional Parliament and in local government, the PCP MPs have – as a rule and within the framework of the Party line – stood out for their ethical stands, for their liaison with the Party and the mass organizations, fulfilled their electoral pledges and carried out the mandates that they received from the people as a result of their participation in PCP and CDU lists.
They have done so competently, respecting their ethical commitments towards their Party, defending the interests of the workers, the people, the youth and the country.
Next year there will be three elections (European Parliament, Assembly of the Republic and Local Government). From the standpoint of our Programme, elections, both from the point of view of our participation and of our results, have an importance which, although not to be denied or neglected, also requires that they not be viewed as the one factor on which to assess the Party's influence. For the Parties of the bourgeoisie, elections are an end in themselves. For us, they are but a front of struggle and of activity which converges with the Party's overall goals and activity, from which the Party benefits and to which it contributes.
Electoral participation is a valuable arena for political activity and contact with the masses, to assert our proposals and the PCP's project. An organizational strengthening of the Party is not always reflected in electoral support. But it creates better conditions to extend the basis of electoral support and influence. The 2009 electoral cycle will be a demanding process of political and organizational activity that will require a committed mobilization of the Party collective, which presupposes an integrated approach that can take into account the specific features of each election, whilst ensuring convergent action by the Party as whole. We have established a goal of not just preserving, but strengthening, our positions in terms of votes and mandates. And, as we did in the recent elections for the Legislative Assembly in the Azores Autonomous Region, we shall run within the framework of the CDU in the election for the European Parliament.
And comrades, you will agree that, based on the valuable past example and democratic experience, we contact our friends in the Ecological Party – the Greens and in the Democratic Intervention, to consider an agreement for the General election and the Local Government elections, with a view to establishing a Coalition – the CDU, United Democratic Coalition. Further on, there will be Presidential elections.
Much will happen in the meantime. But it is important to state that the PCP will take part in those elections in 2011 with the goal of asserting its position and its own ideas regarding the role and functions of the President of the Republic and contributing to ensure that the Presidency of the Republic be active in ensuring that the Fundamental Law [Constitution] is abided by and respected, freed from the interests and power-seeking of big capital. Comrades,
The absolute majority was achieved by the PS, above all, by capitalizing on the widespread discontentment with the PSD-CDS/PP Governments. Decorated with a number of promises, counting on the support of the economic powers and, further down the road, on “strategic concertation” with the President of the Republic, the PS is more and more unequivocally emerging as a party with right-wing policies.
If we look at reality, we see the PS increasingly tied to big business and to the big bourgeoisie's interests, and increasingly distant from a possible active participation in the democratic solution that the country requires. The PS's essential line, and in particular its policies in government, have led thousands of its voters and supporters to distance themselves. Many of them may potentially converge into the struggle for a political alternative.
Some sections of the PS are seeking to portray themselves as being “on the left” within the party, and have been exhibiting some signs of activity. Undoubtedly this is a result of the growing isolation and discontentment, and of the contradictions which they generate. But by spreading illusions they are revealing their goal: to stop and prevent the possibility of a shift toward the PCP. These activities, which refuse to make a clean break with the key right-wing policies, and regardless of their goals – be they an attempt to prevent the PS's erosion, or the development of other political projects – will, in effect, tend to create conditions for the right-wing policies to survive.
The PSD has been suffering major political instability following its electoral defeat in 2005. The PSD's biggest problem is the fact that the PS is implementing the polices that the PSD would like to implement itself. In everything that is politically strategic or structural, they [PS and PSD] are like siamese twins.
But it would be wrong to underestimate the PSD's strength in local governments and in the State structure, as well as its role as the monopoly bourgeoisie's reserve force, in case of need to ensure alternation. The CDS – in spite of its efforts to recover and clean up its image, by declining their responsibilities in all the worst deeds of the Barroso and Santana Lopes governments – maintains its reactionary and anti-communist stances, in the hope of joining an alternation manoeuvre at some point, when the economic powers so decide. A few brief notes on the Left Block [Bloco de Esquerda].
The first difficulty is in establishing what it is and what it wants. It is ideologically undefined, in terms of class and project. It leans toward social-democracy, disguised with a veneer of verbal ultra-left radicalism inherited from the diaspora of political forces that originated it. It “plays by ear”, benefiting from constant media attention. It has evolved into institutional work, becoming more representative, but opting to address secondary issues and to act after events have unfolded.
Their obsession is the PCP, and they are always competing against the PCP, often slipping into anti-communism. As to the media attention they receive, it can fittingly be said that if the BE sneezes, a lot of journalists catch a cold. “The Greens” Ecological Party (“Os Verdes”), in spite of its increasingly active pro-environment work, of its political and institutional contribution – extending far beyond the CDU and capable of attracting and involving progressive and democratic sections of society – is systematically ignored in the mass media.
In this line-up of political forces, the two-party arrangement that has lasted over 30 years, as well as the machinations of the mass media that serves the ruling classes' ideology and strategy, have made it possible for the State institutions to be dominated by different political forces but all with one single policy. They only compete in trying to determine who will command and implement that single policy. This alternation and power-sharing between PS and PSD – with or without CDS participation – is the economic and financial groups' safest life insurance policy, allowing them to recover lost privileges, harshen the exploitation, injustices and inequalities that exist and are on the rise nationally.
Events confirm that it is through the PCP's political work and through mass participation, organization and struggle that Portugal's workers and people as a whole have gained a greater awareness of the need for structural and strategic changes in society, of the need to break with this worn-out rotation of parties and with these policies that are leading the country into backwardness, injustice, indebtedness and dependence.
The number, size and diversity of mass actions in these past two years have confirmed that a very broad and powerful social front is forming and in motion – encompassing anti-monopoly classes and strata, reducing the social support base for the PS government's right-wing policies, and opening up great potential to enhance the PCP's prestige and support.
That is why – in the midst of all this current complex line-up of social and political forces – we persevere in the goal of turning the social opposition to right-wing policies into a political opposition, and turning this political opposition into a democratic choice, strengthening the PCP by decisively expanding its social, political and electoral influence, providing stronger backing to the demands for a break with current policies and for left-wing policies to serve the people and the country.
It will be by strengthening the PCP and developing mass actions and struggles that the road to a political alternative can be opened. With whom? – we are asked. With all those who, based on their legitimate interests and rights – with the workers and the people, with the patriots and democrats – want a democratic Portugal where social justice, progress and peace can prevail, who feel the need to break with the current state of affairs.
It will never be a one-off, nor will it result from spontaneous generation, or from artificial agreements reached thinking more about power than about policies. It will be a process. It will be all the more feasible and come all the sooner, the stronger the PCP becomes.
In this period between the 17th and 18th Congresses the PCP has grown, become stronger, increased its political and electoral influence, and asserted itself as the Party of the working class and of all working people. In a situation of social degradation where the class struggle is becoming more acute and there are growing limitations on freedom and democracy, the PCP has shown its importance and its role in Portugal's political life: in the struggle against changes to the labour laws and for pay rises; in defending rights and freedoms, the right to health care, to education, to justice, to public water, to transport, to security; in the struggle to prevent closure of public services; in defending the nation's productive apparatus and national production; in defending national sovereignty; in denouncing and opposing Portugal's involvement in imperialist wars of aggression and occupations.
The PCP participated in important electoral battles, such as the general election, local government and presidential elections, with positive results and massively participated campaigns, like for example the rally during the presidential campaign, when over 25,000 people overflowed the Atlantico Pavillion, making it seem small. By coordinating and dialectically interconnecting mass actions, institutional work, and general political work, the Party has run major political campaigns based on propaganda and on special sales of “Avante!”.
Intensive work went into organizing political events, seminars, debates, rallies, meetings, public meetings, organizational assemblies. Celebrations were held for the Party and “Avante!” anniversaries. Major National Meetings were organized. We hosted the International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties in our country. Celebrations were held for the Communist Manifesto's 160th anniversary, the October Revolution's 90th anniversary, the April Revolution's 30th anniversary. Extremely important was the process of organizing the PCP's National Conference on Economic and Social Issues, whose conclusions are highly relevant to Portugal's current situation. Comrade Álvaro Cunhal's funeral was a huge tribute to his role – to his political, ideological, cultural, and Party-building work – identifying with the values of April. In the midst of harsh class struggle – and confronted with offensives against freedoms and the democratic regime, and with an anti-democratic Law on Political parties and their Financing – the Freedom and Democracy March, with the participation of over 50,000 Party members and friends of the Party, was a great event where the Party asserted itself and gave a fighting response to the situation.
The international and national situation, the struggles and wishes of workers and peoples confirm that our project is valid and relevant today, and that Communist Parties are necessary. The PCP is proud of its history in the struggle against fascism, for democracy and freedom. We reassert our determination in implementing the Party's humanistic liberation project, that is itself part and parcel of the Party's nature and identity.
A strong PCP, and strengthening the PCP, is something that is in the interests of not just communists, but of all workers, of all the people, of all true democrats and patriots. The period between the 17th and 18th Congresses showed that “difficult” does not mean “impossible”, that a stronger PCP is not only necessary, but also possible.
The general movement to organizationally strengthen the Party launched by the 17th Congress with the slogan “Yes, it's possible: a stronger PCP!”, established essential Party-strengthening directives and led to major advances in improving Party cohesiveness, collective work, structure and working capacity. We do not underestimate the existing shortcomings, difficulties and delays, but these do not annul the major importance of the steps already taken.
The demanding task of updating the Party's membership files is yet to be completed. But among the feats that spur us on in this constant building and rebuilding effort to strengthen Party organization are that: 7,000 new members were recruited into the Party (the largest recruitment of the past 20 years); up to 2006 there was a drive to assign new responsibilities to cadres, resulting in 1,400 members receiving new responsibilities (712 of them under the age of 35); 630 organizational assemblies were held. This is, comrades, not mere proof of existance, it is proof of strength and of trust in the Party and its future.
This 18th Congress must not rest on those laurels. It must push ahead with a general Party-strengthening drive. Forward, for a stronger PCP!
This is, comrades, what most genuinely disproves what all the monsters hovering over the 17th Congress were pontificating about: that it would be impossible for us to round the cape of hope and conviction and that it would be impossible to have a stronger Party. In mentioning just some of the Party-strengthening directions and measures set out in our draft Political Resolution, we would like to highlight the following: improving leadership work by overcoming existing shortcomings, new structure-building measures, improvement of collective work and style of work, renewal of membership and assignment of responsibilities to new and valuable cadres.
The proposal for the Central Committee to be elected by the 18th Congress maintains the same features as the outgoing one, particularly as regards its range of skills, while the number of members has been slightly reduced. Its membership embodies the criteria defined by the Party leadership: renewal, rejuvenation, a social majority of industrial workers and working people, Party cadres both full-timers and others, those responsible for major Party organizations, members from workplace organizations, members involved in mass movements, working in diverse social, economic, cultural, technical, intellectual and scientific fields, bringing with them diverse bodies of knowledge.
All this strengthened by the participation of more young people and women.
We are looking to a better cadre policy, training them, giving them more responsibilities – especially industrial workers, young people and women – fostering individual and collective thinking.
We are looking to strengthen the organization, by continuing our policy of recruiting and organizing the Party wherever the masses are – and especially where class conflicts and the class struggle is waged –, where energies can be freed and consciences can form and evolve: the workplace.
We are looking to improve our ideological work, creating closer links between research, debate, initiative and definition of priority topics relevant to the Party's practical work, tasks and experience – thus opening up channels for the Party's thinking to communicate and expand.
We are looking to improve the Party's information, propaganda and press: by making the best use of existing material and human resources; in publicizing and distributing “Avante!”, particularly through militant sales, to make the Party's central paper more visible and more effective; ensuring that “O Militante” is more closely integrated into the Party's work and experiences; better coordinating our information, propaganda, press, publications and relations with the mass media.
We are looking to improve our financial policy which must have militancy and the Party members’ dedication at its root, must raise income, limit expenses, have greater initiative; improve financial control, maintain and make the best use of our facilities to ensure normal Party work; prepare the Party to be able to always preserve its independence from capital and from the State, whatever the circumstances that may arise.
It is only by being the Party that we are – and not the one that our opponents would like us to be – can the PCP successfully defend the workers, the people and the country, be the essential force working for democracy and national independence, and be the most determined and consistent force in the struggle for alternative policies and for a political alternative.
The Party's identity is the strongest and most secure foundation for our ability to intervene in national life. In establishing this identity's essential features, we do not turn to abstraction, to merely theoretical, timeless or immovable concepts – we improve it with collective thinking, turning to real life, to our own experiences in our many struggles and the many lessons we learned in them and from our members' dedicated and courageous work, to our connection to workers' and the masses' problems, aspirations and struggles, and to the Party's own ability to creatively develop principles, concepts and practices.
The Party is also its class nature – the very reason of our struggle –, its goal of building a new society where capitalism's exploitation, oppression and injustices can be banished – a socialist society, with its revolutionary, materialist, dialectical, creative theory, contrary to dogmatism and fossilization and also to revision of fundamental principles, a theory that emerges from real life and has to provide real-life answers, with organizational principles such as a single political line, a single central leadership, a thoroughly-embedded democracy, close ties to the working class, to all working people, to the masses of the people, with patriotism and internationalism.
This is the Party that we have, this is the Party that we are. The Congress's will is sovereign. But we are deeply convinced and confident that we have been, are, and will be a Communist Party worthy of its name, that we do not give in to pressure or threats, that we do not fear the truth, courage and honesty.
We will emerge from this 18th Congress with renewed strength to continue our struggle.
Long live Portugal's workers and people!
Long live internationalist solidarity!
Long live the PCP!