Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the PCP, Session «The PCP and the 25th of April»

The PCP and the 25th of April

The PCP and the 25th of April

This year we celebrate the April Revolution, at a time when we also celebrate the Centenary of our Party and this week, on Friday, 45 years of the adoption of the current Constitution of the Portuguese Republic.

Those who know the paths of April and those that Abril built and the history of this Portuguese Communist Party, will recognise that it makes perfect sense and is justified, at a time when our Party celebrates 100 years of struggle at the service of the workers, the people and the Country, that the theme of our Session today is “The PCP and the 25th of April”. Not only because the PCP was one of the determining forces in the April Revolution, but also because the 25th. April Revolution was for the PCP, as we have already stated, one of the highest moments if not the highest in its history and an inexhaustible source of experiences and teachings, which enriched our analyses, our theoretical heritage, our own Programme, the understanding of the scope of our everyday political action.

In fact, it is in this relationship of reciprocity of those who gave and those who received that we, quite often, find ourselves when we explore this fruitful path that unites the action of the PCP to the April Revolution to its achievements and their defence, that we here, today, particularly salute when we celebrate 100 years of a Party with a unique history and a Revolution that was one of the highest moments in the history of our people and our Country.

We heard from the speakers who preceded me, important dimensions of what our Party represented for the April Revolution, to start with that contribution, unparalleled to any other political force, in the struggle to resist the fascist dictatorship and to create the necessary conditions for the national antifascist uprising, to prepare the social and political conditions that determined both the widespread support of the Portuguese people for the military uprising of the Armed Forces Movement (MFA), but also the immediate popular uprising, the conquest of freedom, the creation and institutionalisation of the new democratic regime of April.

A resistance struggle of many years that had as its central axis the defence of popular interests and claims to which it was intimately linked, the struggle for freedom, democracy and national independence, and that would be developed on all fronts, namely against the colonial war and in the defence and dynamization of the unity of the democratic forces in the fight against the dictatorship.

Yes, those were years and years of struggle, under the conditions of clandestinity of this Party to guide, promote, organise, unite and mobilise the workers and the masses, with remarkable successes in these struggles.
A contribution by the PCP that was extended to the study and theorisation of the revolutionary process in Portugal, with a particular impact on the life of the Country in the period of the widespread crisis of the regime, with the adoption of the Programme of the Democratic and National Revolution in its VI Congress - the congress of the “On the Road to Victory” -, where the strategy and tactics of the Portuguese Communist Party are defined for the stage of the Portuguese anti-fascist revolution.

A contribution solidly grounded on the theory and analysis of the Portuguese and international reality. A contribution that highlighted the originality of the development of capitalism in Portugal and the role of the State in the coercive and violent imposition of monopoly and latifundist domination of the Country. An analysis that enabled to define the nature of the fascist State.

Fascism was not just a regime of oppression and obscurantism, it was also the organised expression of power, in a State at the service of monopolies and large landowners that subjected the workers and the people to brutal exploitation and the Country to backwardness.

Liberating Portugal from fascism and promoting the improvement of the living conditions of the masses and the development of the Country demanded the simultaneous liquidation of the political power and the economic power of the forces that supported fascism - the monopolists and large landowners -, its true beneficiaries. It was not enough, as sectors of the liberal bourgeoisie intended, to promote only political changes in the regime.

The conclusions and guidelines that emerged from the VI PCP Congress had an enormous influence in creating the conditions for the emergence of a revolutionary situation, aiming at the national popular and military uprising for the overthrow of the fascist dictatorship.

In fact, fascism had entered its final phase and there were many indications that the conditions for the final assault on fascist power were drawing near.

The problems of the colonial war and its repercussions on the armed forces, the worsening of economic problems, the growing international isolation, the development of the struggle of the workers and masses revealed it. Just as the hesitations, divisions and dissent in the fascist camp revealed, with no solutions to save the regime.

The organisational effort aimed at boosting the struggle of the working class, the workers, the popular masses, as well as the great leadership of work was there in the guidelines set down and which would be reflected in the significant outbreak of strikes in the years that preceded the April Revolution. An outbreak that was not disconnected from the involvement of the communists who, in unity with other workers with different positions, created the conditions for the emergence of Intersindical [Trade Union Central], in 1970, reinforcing the unity, cooperation and struggle of the Portuguese workers.

As was the effort that would be materialised in practice to stimulate the resistance of the Democratic Opposition Movement and its unity on an anti-monopoly basis and which would be reflected in the conclusions of the III Congress of the Democratic Opposition, in 1973, where the different tendencies of the Opposition, found in unity a common platform, for the immediate end of the war and for the abolition of the power of the monopolies, a pillar of the regime.

The popular struggle on all fronts (the workers 'movement, the democratic movement, the students' movement, the struggle of the intellectuals, the struggle against the colonial war, including in the armed forces) would reach a fast ascent, with the widespread crisis of the dictatorship evolving into a revolutionary situation in which overthrow by force was the order of the day. That day that would arrive on 25th April.

What has already been said in this Session shows that “the victorious military movement of 25th. April did not drop from the skies”, as the advances, the achievements, the great transformations that would follow it, would not drop from the skies, in this impetuous April revolutionary process in which this original and fruitful alliance of the Armed Forces Movement and a powerful mass popular movement were combined.

The April Revolution was a remarkable confirmation of the analyses and perspectives outlined in the Programme of the Democratic and National Revolution.

And it is true, as Álvaro Cunhal pointed out, that “the Revolution brought surprises and originalities”. In relation to the path, in the final stretch, the military factor took on a decisive role in the overthrow of the dictatorship, but it will be through the initiative of the masses, with a prominent role of the working class, that the heroic military uprising would become a revolution, just as it would be with its own and autonomous initiative, alongside the military component, that would create its main achievements, already mentioned here, be it nationalisations, agrarian reform, workers' rights, the implementation of universal social rights, the recognition and institutionalisation of local democratic administration, but also freedom and democracy that were not granted, but conquered.

It is fair to recall in this framework of freedoms and democracy that the MFA programme did not provide for the immediate legalisation of political parties, but only the formation of “political associations” that could be embryos of future political parties and that the President of the National Salvation Junta, general Spínola, shortly after the 25th. of April, made statements in order to preserve [the political police] PIDE. And that the release of political prisoners did not result from an act of will by the generals and the Junta. It was the popular uprising and its irresistible action, with the support of the MFA captains and democratic forces that would not only determine the release of political prisoners, but also end PIDE by surrounding and taking its headquarters.

Just as we cannot fail to recall that it was fundamentally the working class and the popular masses, with the PCP and some other democratic sectors and progressive sectors of the MFA that, with their action, saved the Country from the establishment of a new dictatorship, standing up to the various counter-revolutionary coups unleashed by the reactionary forces and persons placed in the highest bodies of civil and military power.

This is, indeed, one of the original features of the Revolution, one of its most significant characteristics, which was that profound revolutionary transformations took place from below, without the existence of a revolutionary power capable of ensuring the tasks of the revolution.

From the first hour, the higher military and civilian bodies revealed great divergences, which were based on different projects regarding the destruction of the fascist regime and the fundamental goals of the Revolution.

A problem that constitutes a weakness of the Portuguese revolution and for whose overcoming the PCP made another important contribution to the creative identification, definition and projection, right at the beginning of the revolution, of the People-MFA alliance as the engine of revolution and expression of a broad alliance of all non-monopoly and non-latifundist classes and strata.
A vital alliance that would determine the democratic achievements, the nature, the scope and the characteristics of the future Portuguese democracy.

In fact, all the most important progressive transformations were first implemented in practice and only later legitimised by the powers, in the framework of a thrilling creative process, with the masses always at its side, the PCP merging the experience of a long struggle with experience and creativity of the working class and the popular masses.

The popular masses that learned much from the Party and the Party with their struggle also learned much and continues to learn with the struggle of the workers and the popular masses.

Deep revolutionary transformations that created a new reality, namely with the liquidation of State monopoly capitalism, resulting from the end of monopoly domination with the nationalisation of the key sectors of the economy and with the democratisation of access to land in the region of the latifundia that opened the perspective of an evolution towards socialism.

A course that came to be embraced by the 1976 Constitution of the Republic with the recognition of all the revolutionary achievements as constitutive features of the new democratic regime.

On this April 2, as already stated, 45 years pass since the adoption of the Constitution by the Constituent Assembly elected on April 25, 1975, in the first free elections and with universal suffrage held in all our history.

It inscribed the identity of the April Revolution, its achievements and its aspirations for progress, democracy, development and sovereignty.

One can never overstate that the broad set of economic, social, political and cultural rights enshrined in the 1976 Portuguese Constitution is unparalleled in previous Portuguese Constitutions and at the international level. It was and still holds an honourable place as one of the most progressive Constitutions of the world.

We are well aware that the constitutional text we have today does not correspond to the one that was adopted in 1976. In seven constitutional amendment processes negotiated between the PS and the PSD, with the support of the CDS, some fundamental aspects of the Constitution of the Republic adopted in 1976 have been eliminated or mischaracterised.

They dealt blows to the proportionality of the electoral system. In practice, the creation of administrative regions foreseen in the Constitution was made unviable with the imposition of a mandatory referendum.

They promoted a serious setback in the economic and social Constitution. The goal of ensuring the transition to socialism has been eliminated. The principle of irreversibility of nationalisations was eliminated, granting the Government powers to re-privatise nationalised companies and open the door to their domination by foreign capital. The constitutional reference to land reform was eliminated. The principle of gratuitousness of the National Health Service was eliminated, which became “largely free” and, in 2004, PSD, PS and CDS, abdicated the primacy of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic in favour of European Union Law.
The tragic consequences of these changes are clearly visible in today's Portuguese society with the dominance by monopoly capital, particularly foreign, of the strategic sectors and the fundamental levers of our economy, which have come to serve their exclusive interests, calling into question in a dramatic way our sovereignty and our right to development.

The offensive that since 1976 the action of the governments of the right-wing policies of PS, PSD and CDS have unleashed against the Constitution and the values inscribed in it have not been limited to constitutional amendments. It was also translated into a political and governmental practice that implemented them, eliminating and subverting the rights conquered by the Portuguese people, restoring and rebuilding the old privileges of the money lords and their network of interests, and against whom the April Revolution had also been made.

Decades of policies contrary to the Constitution and the values enshrined in it were marked by the liquidation of workers' rights, by the devaluation of wages, by precariousness as a rule of employment relations, by attacks on collective bargaining, by the liberalisation of dismissals, by violations of the right to strike, by the persecution of workers' representatives, by the liquidation of social rights, with the attack on the National Health Service and the Public School, with the denial of access to Justice and the courts, and with the drastic reduction of social support in unemployment , in sickness and situations of need.

Decades marked by the devaluation and deterioration of the social functions of the State, with the dismantling of public institutions and with the handing of inalienable social functions to the greed of private interests, but also by the degradation of political democracy, with the installation of cronyism and corruption in the State apparatus, instrumentalized by the parties in government and enhanced by the system of alternation without alternative between PS and PSD with the support of the CDS to feed the party clientele and the interests of the economic power.

A long period of policies of worsening exploitation and worsening of inequalities, of plundering the national assets that enhanced the Country's decline, which saw deep structural deficits accumulate, a high External Debt and a public debt service that depletes the Country, great territorial imbalances and serious environmental problems.

Problems now aggravated by the epidemic and by the use that big capital makes of it, expanding exploitation, the impoverishment of large popular strata, to serve their immediate interests of accumulation and maximization of profit.

Years of governance contrary to the Constitution and against which it was necessary to forge a vigorous and wide-ranging struggle, in which the PCP, once again, with determination took the forefront of the political intervention and the dynamization and mobilisation of the workers and popular masses.

The executors of right-wing policies in their offensive against April have always made the Constitution the scapegoat for the Country's ills, accusing it of being an obstacle to its development.

What these executors have always tried to hide is that the Constitution, far from being an obstacle to the development of the Country, was, and is, an obstacle to the implementation of their plans to destroy fundamental rights of the Portuguese people and to liquidate the values of April to deliver the country to the plunder of big capital, to the domination of the European Union and transnational corporations.

Of course, the right never accepted the Constitution. It tried to prevent its adoption, but failed. It managed, of course, to severely maim the Constitution, due to the PS's yielding to successive constitutional amendments. But it does not give up trying to liquidate the Constitution from its most solid bases: fundamental rights, the separation of powers, the social and economic functions of the State that should guarantee universal rights and promote the development process in favour of the people and the Country.

In fact, the enemies of the Constitution have not abandoned the project of its total subversion. The seven constitutional amendment processes do not yet correspond to their dark goals.

We saw this not so long ago, in the period of direct foreign interference in the country that the Pact of Aggression enabled and that the PSD/CDS government took the opportunity to launch yet another violent onslaught against the Constitution. We have to recall that Passos Coelho came to affirm, during this period, that the Constitution never gave anyone employment, to justify the frustrated project of constitutional amendment that the PSD tabled in 2011 and which essentially intended to liquidate the constitutionally enshrined rights of the workers, such as banning dismissals without due cause and liquidating social rights to healthcare and education. We have to recall the attack on the Constitutional Court by the government, proposing to question the validity of the Constitution itself. We have to recall the violent campaign aimed at imposing a state of exception, according to which, in times of crisis, the Constitution could not be invoked.

As if it were not precisely in times of crisis and threat to fundamental rights that the essential value of the Constitution must be revealed as a guarantee of the inviolability of rights.

The situation is not the same today, nor the current State of Emergency against which we have voted and which is, in fact, a state of exception, has the same purposes as then, but that does not mean that there are no real threats to fundamental rights, that we need to do everything to contain and defeat them.

Yes, comrades and friends, it is in times of threat to fundamental rights that not only the value of the Constitution supporting its guarantee is affirmed, but it demands more from us and from the democratic forces to do everything to ensure them. From the outset, exercising them, as we have done and resisting all blackmail and all attempts to demean political activity and any attempt to impose a lockdown of the right to protest and the social and labour struggle that must be guaranteed while ensuring all health conditions.

In recent times and under the pretext of the epidemic and falsely invoking public health, we have witnessed new manoeuvres by the right-wing and reactionary forces, in an attempt to impose a situation of permanent limitation on political activity and trade union action, to postpone the elections, to change electoral laws and amend the Constitution itself.

The recent attacks promoted by the traditional right-wing parties, with the PSD at the head, joined by the aims of new surrogate parties, show that the old designs of subversion of the values of April are renewed.

A resumption of the offensive that they are preparing under the cover of the always inevitable and necessary structural reforms be they the so-called stated and restated reforms of the State, the Electoral System, Justice, Social Security, as they have recently been announcing.

In this offensive, the forces of Constitutional subversion not only use all pretexts to justify its need, but they also prepare the ground for removing legitimacy to the struggle that opposes this aim.

That is why we see them implying from their centres of political and ideological production that the PCP, because it opposed their constitutional amendments, no longer has the legitimacy to demand the application and compliance with the Constitution.

We understand them well, they know that here is the force that not only fights more and that more firmly opposes the subversion of the Constitution, but the one that strives more so that its values have concrete expression in our collective life and in the reality of the Country.

Affirming the democratic values of April, its progressive and transformative role, and fighting for policies in line with its values, is essential to stop the pace of projects of constitutional subversion and the advances of the forces betting on economic backwardness and impoverishment of the Country.

Despite seven constitutional amendments that de-characterise very important aspects of the 1976 democratic Constitution and all the blows suffered, the Constitution continues to enshrine a set of principles and norms that the reactionary forces were never able to suppress and that remain as democratic achievements that must continue to be guaranteed.

In these times of celebration of 100 years of uninterrupted struggle by the PCP at the service of the workers and the people and with Abril on the doorstep, the April of the Revolution, once again we reaffirm that the PCP will not give up fighting for a policy in line with the Constitution, aiming to materialise the path that it advocates - the construction in Portugal of a democracy that is simultaneously political, economic, social and cultural. A path built and based on the values that its project holds - the values of freedom, social emancipation, the State at the service of the people and not of exploitation, of development aimed at improving the quality of life of the Portuguese, full employment, a fair and balanced distribution of national wealth, of national sovereignty and independence.

Values that the PCP assumes in its project and that are translated into a concrete political programme - the programme for an advanced democracy, like the one that the PCP presents to the Portuguese and whose materialisation is inseparable from the implementation of a patriotic and left-wing policy for which we fight in these days to ensure a turn towards a future of progress for our people.

A policy to promote and ensure the path of the country's sovereign development and the improvement of the living conditions of workers and our people.

A programme to respond to the new problems of a reality that has changed and not to literally repeat past experience, but a programme to unequivocally resume the path of an unfinished Revolution and free the country from the domination of monopoly capital and submission to foreigners, namely to the impositions of the European Union and the Euro and to reverse the course of a policy that has led the Country to backwardness and dependence and to guarantee in a lasting and sustained way the development of the Country and the elevation of the people's living conditions.

The April Revolution is the heritage of the people and it is the heritage of the future. A heritage built by the struggle of the workers and the people and to which we communists are proud to have made an unparalleled contribution not only in the long and heroic resistance, but in all the decisive moments of its construction.

In these long years of capitalist and monopoly restoration, they have liquidated many of its concrete realities, but they have not succeeded, nor will they succeed, in killing the dream of seeing April's paths resumed and of materialising its values.

We are firmly convinced that the generous project of April and its values and achievements will eventually prove to be an objective necessity in the materialisation of a fraternal and progressive Portugal!