Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the PCP, Closing Rally of the "Avante!" Festival

Rally of the «Avante!» Festival 2017

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Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the PCP

It is with great joy that we greet you, all the builders of the Avante! Festival, participants and guests, our friends from the Ecologist Party "The Greens" and from the ID - Democratic Intervention - and the independents that are part of CDU.

A special greeting to the youth and to the JCP who, in the construction and in the participation, are a clear proof of a Festival full of future. A Festival that holds a dream that we will pursue: that the reality of Portugal for which we fight will one day have much of the reality and beauty that our Avante! Festival has.

A Festival erected with the militant effort of a great collective that, while setting up this unparalleled political and cultural initiative, this space of affirmation of the values of fraternity, peace, internationalist solidarity, democracy and socialism, fights and responds to the most demanding tasks, in the most diverse fronts and at various levels, fulfilling its role of defending the interests of the workers, the people and of our Country.

First of all, the priority task of the defence, restoration and achievement of rights and the reversal of the process of forced impoverishment imposed on Portugal and on the Portuguese by years of right-wing policy, worsened by the SGPs and the Pact of Aggression, under the responsibility of PS, PSD and CDS governments.

A Festival built by a collective of a great and active Party that has initiative and has solutions and fights for them and that, in this new phase of national political life, with the changed composition of the Assembly of the Republic and its weight and increased influence, conditions political options, continues to play a decisive role in the advances made in the recovery, albeit limited, of the living conditions of the people.

Advances in the restoration of wages and 35 hour working time in Public Administration; elimination of the Income Tax surtax, replacement of stolen holidays, increase in the national minimum wage and family allowance, cut in healthcare fees, extra support for unemployed workers, opening the process to combat precariousness in Public Administration, a cut in VAT on catering and a cut in the tax bill for small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, with a reduction in the value of the Advanced Tax Payment - with the aim of its extinction, reduction of fuel costs for fishing.

Advances that have resulted more recently in the implementation, already in this school year, of free school text books to all students of the first cycle; free admission to museums and monuments on Sunday mornings and, in the month that has just ended, a special increase in pensions, covering more than 2 million pensioners with pensions up to 631 euros. What was planned for this year, and this must be said, was just an unfreezing of pensions. What was achieved, thanks to the decisive intervention of the PCP, means three times more than was admitted. An increase that had not taken place for years! Advances, still a first step, to answer the right to a full pension, without penalisations, for workers with long contribution periods. But also the replacement of a 25% discount on transport passes for students.

We know that we are still short of what is needed to improve the living conditions of the workers and the people. It is not yet what is fair and needed, but these are advances that go beyond what the PS Programme and its government admitted, and the struggle continues and will follow its path.

We erected the Festival and at the same time intervened to defend the interests and rights and to boost the struggle of the workers and the people, involving hundreds of thousands of workers in actions, in the companies and workplaces, for concrete or convergent objectives in a broad process of demands for better living and working conditions, involving sectors of non-monopolistic classes and strata.

Struggles waged by the workers in various areas of the private sector and Public Administration, including the actions of workers in the large commercial distribution, call centres, industry, in particular against the employers’ attack on working hours, the right to continue weekly rest on Saturdays and Sundays, as was the case in Autoeuropa, for solutions that safeguard their rights and ensure the development of production, or with the workers of Portugal Telecom for the defence of their dignity and rights.

Struggles which, in many cases, achieved victories of great significance, whether with the increase of wages, or with the guarantee of contract ties of workers, or with the defence and achievement of many other rights. Struggles which are inseparable from the role of the unitary trade union movement and of the great Trade Union Central of the Portuguese workers, CGTP-IN, that we greet here.

Struggles of the working youth, secondary and higher education students, women, retired people and pensioners, people with disabilities, struggles of people in defence of the National Health Service, Public Schools, preservation of Caixa Geral de Depósitos bank branches, against the degradation of the postal service and for its public control. Struggles also affirming internationalist solidarity, in defence of Peace and for the dissolution of NATO.

Struggles that have the commitment, solidarity and support of the Portuguese communists, whose importance is reinforced in the current situation in which the development of organised struggle, rejecting passivity and provocative and divisive options, is an indispensable condition to carry further the defence, replacement and achievement of rights and implement policies that the country, the workers and the people need.

We have erected this great Festival, and all over the country, in a great effort and with our coalition partners in CDU, we have completed the process of candidacies for the October 1Local Elections. This represents a great success.

CDU is the political force that puts forward the largest number of candidates for municipal bodies, in a proof of popular rooting, greater influence and broader support. A success also underlined by the increase in the number of candidacies for Parish Assemblies - one of the largest ever.

Building the Festival and at the same time being able to present more slates than in previous elections is a sign that fills us with confidence to successfully wage this electoral battle.

No other party in Portugal would be able to build and hold this great Festival and at the same time wage such important battles and carry out such important tasks.

And here we are at our Avante! Festival and less than a month away from the elections we can say that CDU confirms itself as the great left-wing force in Local Administration. For its work, for the work it shows, for its distinctive project.

We are waging this electoral battle, assuming CDU's own identity, with our own symbol, our name and above all with the differentiated nature of our project.

And with our heads held high we will assume our commitments, accountability, without hiding or concealing ourselves.
CDU has been, is, and will continue to be, for large sectors of the population, decisive in defending their rights, for the solution of problems and for the promotion of local development and progress.

The election of more CDU candidates on October 1 is the guarantee, in every parish and municipality, of work to serve the population and meet their problems. That is the direct aim of these elections.

Choosing those who ensure work, honesty and competence in the exercise of their mandates.

Today, as always, it is necessary to confirm at the national level the awareness of the decisive role of the PCP and CDU, the need to strengthen it and the importance of its weight in political life.

It is not only the parishes and municipalities of this country that benefit from CDU’s intervention.

It is the Country that needs the work, honesty and competence of the PCP and CDU. The national political life proves this.

This is why the coming local elections are of great importance for what they represent at the local level, but also for what they can contribute to give strength to the struggle we are fighting to better defend the interests of the workers, the people and the Country.

In recent times the Portuguese were able to see how important it is to have this determined force gathered around CDU and which includes the PCP, the Ecologist Party "The Greens", ID and thousands of independent people, to defend, restore and achieve rights.

More votes on CDU are a guarantee of being able to take new steps and advances to answer the problems of the Country, the workers and the people.
More strength to CDU to ensure a general wage increase and the special increase of the national minimum wage to 600 euros in January 2018. A measure of elementary justice, but also of economic dynamization and sustainability of Social Security.

More strength to CDU to continue restoring the rights, benefits and supplements taken away from the Public Administration and State Business Sector workers, to restore the payment amounts of overtime and night work, as well as the unfreezing of the careers of all Public Administration workers and increasing wages.

More strength to CDU to increase pension amounts, thus contributing to the recovery of the purchasing power lost by pensioners over the last decade, which will ensure, with the amendment of the law, a growth above inflation rates in the amount of pensions, ensuring a minimum increase of 10 euros in 2018 for all pensions. As well as to ensure that a worker with 40 or more years of contributions is entitled to full retirement without penalisation, and to justice workers who have been penalised in their retirement pay in recent years.

More strength to CDU to take new steps in unemployment protection by extending unemployment payments and eliminating the 10% cut.
More strength to CDU to increase support for children and young people, with the extension of family allowance and its amount and allocation, access to the pre-school public network for all children from the age of three, extension of free textbooks to the second and third cycle, reinforcement of Social Programmes in Schools.

More strength to CDU to ensure a fairer fiscal policy by lowering taxes on lower-income workers by creating more Income tax brackets and cutting taxes, by strengthening the so-called minimum existence wage for the lowest salaries. At the same time, by duly taxing the high earnings with the compulsory aggregation of profits and dividends of big business, with the introduction of an additional tax for companies with profits over 35 million Euros.

More strength to CDU for better public services, increased investment, hiring professionals needed for full access to education, contracting technical assistants and technicians lacking in schools and contracting teachers who, year after year, meet permanent needs with precarious contracts. And in health, with the hiring of the necessary professionals, guaranteeing doctor and family nurse to all Portuguese by the end of 2018.

More CDU votes on October 1 to advance public investment, ensure the right to transport by answering the glaring shortage of rolling stock and workers in the public transport service, ensuring the extension of the intertransport pass, ending tolls in the former SCUT (highways built to be free), and defending the taxi services from the ongoing liberalisation process.

More strength to CDU to further the right to housing, enhancing tenancy guarantees and promoting the offer of social housing.

More strength to CDU for the valorisation and professional dignity of the military and professionals of the security forces and services, as well as the guarantee of respect for the independence of the judiciary and its reinforcement in human and material resources.

More strength to CDU to take new steps in responding to culture and supporting the arts aiming at 1% of the State Budget.

More strength to CDU to adopt a policy of cuts in energy costs and bills, ensuring, in particular, a cut in the price of gas cylinders, to put an end to privatisations and the renewal of PPPs, to defend rights, to progress in improving the living conditions and the development of the country.The urgency of an immediate response to the needs that are present in the daily life of the Portuguese cannot overshadow, let alone eclipse, the fundamental problems of the Country that block and prevent its development, nor hide the imperative requirement to solve them with a truly alternative policy to the one which led the Country to the crisis and regression.

The advances in responding to urgent problems in these times of the new phase cannot evade the problems gathered during decades of disastrous right-wing policies and capitalist recovery and monopolistic restoration by successive PS, PSD and CDS governments and at its worst in the last PSD/CDS government.
Nor can they conceal the consequences of a disastrous policy of capitalist integration in the European Union.

Policies that have made Portugal a country that is increasingly de-industrialized, dependent, impoverished and vulnerable.

As demonstrated by the stagnation of its economy and a regress of years in the National Product and employment. As demonstrated by the decay in the social situation, with the regress in living conditions of workers and people. As demonstrated by the structural vulnerabilities and fragilities present in the Portuguese reality and that have everlasting effects.

Vulnerabilities and fragilities expressed in an aggravated productive deficit, but also in terms of food, energy, demography, land planning, infrastructures and public services, that turn Portugal into a nation that is extraordinarily exposed to adverse changes in the international situation, be it interest rates, oil prices, the value of the Euro, or any others.

Some of these vulnerabilities were dramatically exposed during the tragic forest fires that plagued the country this summer. A tragedy that cannot be disassociated from a policy that weakened the interior and rural part of the country, destroyed ways of life, employment and public services. From a decades long disastrous agricultural and forest policy. That destroyed cultures and fostered the eucalyptus monoculture, relinquishing before the pressures of the cellulose industry. That gave no support and promoted abandonment by small producers. That neglected its protection with the lack of sappers and the end of forest guards, but also in measures to fight fires and support firemen throughout the years.

Today, in addition to the due recognition of the work of firemen, whom we solute, what is urgent and indispensable is to guarantee that exceptional measures of support reach the afflicted communities, as PCP defended in a proposed law that awaits a vote, and that we will not let forget.

Just as we won’t stop demanding unpostponable measures that, after PCP’s initiative, were approved to defend the forest, in the context and framework of the debate on Forest Reform, or measures to answer the evident restrictions, such as the necessary public control of SIRESP (Integrated System of Emergency and Security Networks in Portugal) and the means of firefighting from the air.

The undisguised existing vulnerabilities are joined by a number of strong constraints that are being deepened and that seriously condition the development of the country.

We have a common currency that has been a disaster for the Portuguese economy over the last twenty years. The Euro, with its rules and objectives, increasingly affirms itself as a genuine straight jacket that impedes the definition and achievement of a policy and project of sovereign development for the country.

We have one of the largest public and foreign debts in the world. An unsustainable debt that drains our national interests and that, in interest alone, is more than 8 billion euros!

We have a financial sector, in particular the commercial banks, dominated from abroad to serve interests that are not those of the country or the Portuguese. A sector that is a parade of failed banks, corruption and fraudulent management that has drained colossal public resources and are then delivered to the greed of speculators and stockholder profit.

We have an economic reality that, as a whole, is increasingly dominated by monopolies, particularly by large foreign capital, who in addition to the banks, control the insurance companies, energy sector, telecommunications, postal services, ports and airports, social communication, large distribution and large industrial sectors. Look at the ongoing process of destruction of PT (telecommunications), look at the decay of CTT (postal services) after its privatization, think of what is happening with the super-profitable energy sector and we’re rapidly led to conclude that there is no possible compatibility between the needs of the country and the interests of the monopolistic groups that dominate the national economy.

To ignore this reality, pretend there is a possible long lasting policy of recovery of rights and incomes without solving these structural problems and constraints, without confronting the interests of big capital, is a pure deceit.

With the restitution of rights and incomes it was possible to grow the economy and create employment, although not as much as possible and necessary, but our regression has not been surpassed, not is a sustainable and solid development guaranteed for the future.

As we have always stated, the improvement of the rights and incomes of Portuguese workers and people are in themselves an objective and condition of the development of the Country, and life confirms this. And it confirms it defeating and revealing the fallacy of the thesis that only by impoverishing the people and country would it be possible to achieve economic growth or balance the public accounts.

Don’t expect t PCP, given the many structural problems of the country, to align with those that would like to return to the Troika’s policy, with those that would like to impose today a new cut of 600 million Euros in pensions, to freeze wages, steal rights from the Portuguese workers and people.

The country needs to move forwards and not backward, as intended by PSD and CDS [right-wing parties in government from 2011-2015 and defeated in the 2015 elections], with their scorched earth policy, and they following and blindly obeying the impositions, blackmails and constraints imposed from Brussels upon Portugal.

The PS [Socialist Party in government] can continue talking about the possibility of compatibility of the country’s development with these impositions and constraints, but contrary to what they state there is no possible compatibility between a socially just policy and real development of the country with the impositions and constraints we are subjected to by the European Union.

This incompatibility has a deep cause. The policies imposed by the European Union and specially within the framework of the Euro defend interests contradictory with the interests of the workers and people. They serve the interests of monopolies, big capital and the large powers that dominate the European Union.

That is why we state that the ongoing projects of reinforcing the policies of the Euro and European Union, under the cover of a false choice between possible scenarios about their future, are deeply counter to national interests and peoples. The reinforcement of the European Union and Euro will not bring a solidarity that never existed. To affirm it is to sell a dangerous illusion!

Portugal needs to follow a different path, distinct from that which led to impoverishment and regression. It needs to begin a new path with a new policy, in rupture with the right wing policy. It needs to elevate the response to its deep problems to a new level.

The problems the country faces demand a qualitatively new answer, capable of ensuring a consistent and sustained trajectory of development that is not limited or restricted to obtaining momentary profits from a favorable conjecture, we know to be volatile.

It needs to recover the essential levers to decide with sovereignty about its development.

Portugal needs a policy that affirms its sovereignty and independence. And that is the direction of a patriotic and left-wing policy that PCP defends and Portugal needs.

A policy that has as its decisive elements, among others: the liberation of the country from submission to the Euro and European Union; the renegotiation of the public debt in order to free resources; guarantee the public control over banks; recover the basic strategic sectors of the economy for the public sector; support micro, small and medium companies and the cooperative sector; defend and promote national production and the productive sectors, in articulation with the valorization of worker’s wages and incomes, with the objective of full employment; the respect of work schedules and their reduction to 35 hours; the respect for labor rights; the repeal of grave labor legislation norms, in particular the elimination of the expiration of collective contracts and the reintroduction of the principle of most favorable treatment.

A patriotic and left-wing policy necessary for the country demands a particular and unpostponable attention to national production, good employment of existing resources, and economic development.

A policy that implies giving another priority to public investment, investing in a policy of replacing imports by national production and promoting exports.
It includes the adoption of a program that aims food sovereignty, responding to other essential aspects of the national needs and considering agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries as strategic productions.

Regarding forests, it involves ensuring the necessary financial and human means for land management, valuing the price of lumber, for the prevention and efficiency of intervention in case of fire.

It includes the reindustrialization of the country, with the development of so-called traditional sectors and new sectors, in a framework of accelerated mutation of needs and productive processes.

It implies the development of a strategy pursuing the objective of energy sovereignty, namely by using the existing potential of renewable energies.
It demands the valuing of education, of scientific and technological development, with the elevation of the productive profile and the progression of value chains, and the increase of added value. It implies measures in several sectors, creating new structures and projects, taking advantage of existing resources, such as, in the pharmaceutical sector, valuing the Military Lab of Medication.

A patriotic and left-wing policy necessary for the country that recognizes and assumes the valuing of work and workers, as object and condition for development, and places, as a central issue before the Portuguese labor reality, the pursuit and full realization of a policy fighting labor precariousness.

A policy that imposes itself to end this scourge demands the adoption of a National Program to Fight Precariousness and Illegal Labor, namely ensuring the legislative changes that allow the elimination of existing norms that facilitate private and public precarious labor. Demands implementation of the program defined in the Public Administration and State Business Sector, integrating in tenure contracts all workers that exercise permanent functions and the adoption of programs that guarantee an answer for all their workers, namely scientists, researchers, technicians and professors, in order to guarantee their integration in 2018.

A necessary policy ensures a public administration and services at the service of the people and the country, valuing the National Health Service as a general, universal and free service; a Public School, free and with quality; a Public and Universal Social Security system; a public service of Culture and achievement of an independent justice system, accessible to all.

A policy that fully assumes the defense of a democratic regime and the fulfillment of the Portuguese Constitution, that ensures and affirms the full right of the Portuguese people to decide their own destiny and a foreign policy based on the diversification of relations with a greatest number of countries in the World.

No! We will not give up on achieving solutions for the national problems and giving answers to the aspirations of the workers and people. We know that we have to face strong resistance and surpass many obstacles. The convergence that is maintained between PS, PSD and CDS in terms of labor law, economic and financial options, and sovereignty reveal as much, as demonstrate the contradictory reality in which we move and where the struggle is developed.

But it is looking towards the development of the country that this Party, faithful to its commitments with the workers and people, will pursue its intervention in all domains of our collective life, where the problems and struggles of the workers demand its action, but also in the institutions, with our legislative initiative, with our intervention on the State Budget that is nearing, with the electoral struggles, widening the influence and promoting the convergence between democrats and patriots for a Portugal with a Future!

The world lives disturbed and dangerous times. In all continents, imperialism, namely US imperialism, increases its threats and aggressive actions against all and any country and people that resists its intents of political and economic domination and dares to affirm and defend its independence and sovereignty, its right to development.

The US, NAT, the large powers in the European Union and its allies are responsible for a colossal arms race, including the improvement of nuclear weapons and the installation, globally, of anti-missile systems. They are responsible for the militarization of international relations, the use of nuclear blackmail, the creation of successive and constant foci of tension, the disrespect of international law. They are responsible for violent operations if interference and destabilization, instrumentalization of terrorism and successive and incessant wars of aggression, always sustained under false pretexts and intense disinformation campaigns. Imperialism, namely US imperialism, is responsible for a criminal escalation of confrontations that, if not stopped, will lead Humanity towards catastrophe.
Never has it been so important as today to widen and strengthen the struggle for peace and disarmament —starting with the non-.proliferation and abolition of nuclear weapons—, for the fulfillment of the principles of the United Nations Charters and international law, for the respect of the right to self-determination and sovereignty of peoples.

However, more than a demonstration of force, the worsening of the militarist deviation of the most reactionary and aggressive sectors of big capital is expressed by the deep structural crises of capitalism, the intensification of its contradictions, sharpening of the class struggle, the attempt to sustain and contradict, at all cost, the inexorable relative decline in hegemonic domination by US imperialism.

Far from having a free hand, the exploitive and aggressive offensive of imperialism, against labor and social rights, against fundamental freedoms, against democracy and national sovereignty, is confronted worldwide with the resistance and struggle of workers and peoples.

From here we salute all those that in the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, in Asia, in Africa and in Europe struggle, under the most diverse conditions, in defense of the rights of workers and sovereignty of peoples, for the advance of social progress and the emancipation of workers and peoples, for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.

Reality demonstrates that it is by determined and organized struggle, by the most ample convergence and cooperation of patriotic, progressive and revolutionary forces —in a wide anti-imperialist front— that it is possible to stop the violent offensive of imperialism and open a path towards a new international order of peace, sovereignty and social progress.

Saluting the dozens of foreign delegations —who with their presence brought the testament of the struggle of their peoples, giving an inestimable contribution to the internationalist and solidarity dimension of the Festa do Avante!— we want to ensure you that you can count on the friendship and solidarity of PCP in the common interest of our peoples. A patriotic and internationalist Party, PCP will continue firmly committed to strengthening the common action of communists and of these with the forces of progress and peace throughout the world.

This year we mark 100 years since that important event in the history of humanity — the October Revolution that we have celebrated with a vast commemorative program.
It has been 100 years since the first revolution that launched itself into the construction of a new society, a society free from the exploitation of man by man, thus initiating a new era — the era of the passage from capitalism to socialism.

The USSR and the socialist system marked the achievements and historic advances conquered during the 20th century by workers and peoples in their struggle for social and national emancipation. Its disappearance represented an immense regression for the forces of peace and social progress, for the rights of workers and sovereignty of peoples.

The current global situation brutally exposes that reality and dramatically lays into evidence the exploitative, oppressive, aggressive and predatory nature of capitalism.

The reality of the world today not only denounces the threat that capitalism represents for peoples and the survival of Humanity itself, but also affirms the relevance, vitality and need for this new society, free from all forms of exploitation and oppression: socialism. PCP considers that, through different paths and stages, according to the reality and conditions of each country, socialism affirms itself as the objective in the struggle for emancipation of workers and peoples, as a perspective and condition towards full liberation and human realization.

Yes, the October Revolution continues to announce that another world is possible!

Here we are, our Portuguese Communist Party, with its history, its struggle, its communist identity, its unshakable commitment with the workers and people. This party that stands out as a large militant collective, with a notable work conducted by the organizations and militants of the Party, which I here salute, together with the communist youth, JCP, the Portuguese Communist Youth.

This party that intervenes, struggles and whose reinforcement is essential. We held our 20th Congress, a large success for our Party that, in the framework of its decisions established the importance of reinforcing the Party and defined orientations and measures that need to be achieved regarding leadership, attributing responsibilities and training cadres, regarding the work with the working class and all workers, the creation and reinforcement of cells,

strengthening and energizing of all base organizations, the action in specific areas and social sectors, the recruitment of new militants and their integration, the distribution of the Party press, namely Avante!, the propaganda and raising of necessary funds for the financial independence of the Party.
The reinforcement of the Party will always be present, in a party that was, is and will be a collective achievement.

Recalling history, with a great current significance, we evoke Bento Gonçalves, General Secretary of PCP between 1929 and 1942. We evoke Bento Gonçalves when nest September 11th we mark the 75th anniversary of his death, in the Tarrafal Concentration Camp, at the age of 40, murdered by the Portuguese fascist regime under the brutal conditions of that slow death camp, in 1942, during the second world war, with the nazi-fascists hordes subjugating Europe. In him, we evoke the abnegation, courage, determination that characterized the formation and development of the Party, as a true Leninist party, in which so many militants stood out, among which Álvaro Cunhal is the greatest example.

The Portuguese Communist Party is the Party of freedom and democracy that resisted and developed under the brutal conditions of fascism, the Party of the April Revolution and the defense of its achievements, the Party of national sovereignty and independence, the Party that knows how to give answers to concrete situations, the Party of the working class and all workers, that defends the interests of the Portuguese people, that fights for a patriotic and left-wing policy, for an advanced democracy with the values of April in the future of Portugal, for socialism and communism.

This party that we reinforce in our everyday intervention, pursuing the struggle for the communist ideal and project, which today’s reality reaffirms as a demand of the present and the future.
More than rest upon historic optimism, we are animated by trust and unshakable conviction for, with this Party, this Portuguese Communist Party, act, intervene and struggle, with the workers and the people for a society free from the exploitation of man by man.