Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary, Tribute to those murdered in the Tarrafal Concentration Camp

Tribute to the heroes fallen in the struggle

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«In the long fascist night / they were bearers of the flame of freedom / and for freedom they died / in the Tarrafal Concentration Camp.»
Inscription on the Memorial

This year we celebrate the Centenary of the founding of the Portuguese Communist Party.

Creation of the Portuguese workers, always linked to the popular masses and to life, feeling their pulse, the PCP is the Party of resistance against fascism, it is the Party of the struggle for freedom and democracy, it is the Party of the April Revolution, it is the Party of resistance against counter-revolution, of the struggle for a break with the right-wing policies and for the implementation of a patriotic and left-wing alternative, it is the Party that fights for an advanced democracy, linked to the values of April, an integral part of the struggle for socialism and communism.

These are 100 years of life and determined and confident struggle that is rooted in the past, topical in the present and projected into the future.

In the 48 years of the fascist dictatorship, it was the PCP that led in an organised, permanent and continuous way, the struggle in defence of the interests of the workers, the people and the country, the only one to fight relentlessly for freedom and democracy.

The communists paid for their devotion with heavy sacrifices: thousands of men and women persecuted, tortured, imprisoned for several years. Many murdered in prisons, through torture or shot down by the murderous bullets of fascist police forces.

Men, women and youth who lost their lives in the hope of living in a country where freedom would become a reality. A hope that, crowning decades of struggle, finally arrived with the April Revolution.

After the 25th of April, both in the revolutionary process and in the face of the counter-revolutionary offensive launched by successive governments, the communists were up to their responsibilities. The PCP was the only party that always sided with the workers and the people, defender of the revolution and its achievements, the true defender of the democratic regime and of the national sovereignty.

Also after the 25th of April, communists were murdered when they were doing their duty, at the forefront of the struggle in defence of the freedoms achieved, against the reaction and terrorist bombings, in defence of the achievements of the revolution and for the rights of the workers.

The price of this intervention was heavy: the list of murdered communists is long, reaching almost a hundred comrades, examples of heroism, of unwavering beliefs, of enormous confidence in the justness and triumph of the ideals they embraced.

We are here today, at the Monument to the memory of the victims of Tarrafal, as we are also on the road to Bucelas, where Alfredo Dinis (Alex) was murdered, in Alcântara, where José Dias Coelho was murdered, in Baleizão, where Catarina Eufémia was murdered, and in Escoural, where Caravela and Casquinha were murdered, in this simple ceremony limited by the constraints imposed by the health situation that the country is experiencing, but which is still of great political and historical significance, symbolically, to pay our tribute to all men and women, heroes fallen in the struggle against oppression and terror, in resistance against counter-revolution and right-wing policies, for freedom and democracy, for social progress and socialism.

The serious situation into which the country was thrown, which is now worsened by the epidemic and by the use that big capital makes of it to serve its immediate interests of accumulation and maximisation of profit, deepening exploitation and inequalities with the increase of unemployment, wage cuts and the deregulation of working hours, with the compulsory termination of activities, enhancing social problems that affect the workers and various strata of the population, cannot be overcome with the false alternatives of the several variants of the right-wing policy.

The solution to the country's serious problems cannot be found by putting touches on the same model that led to the setback and backwardness, keeping the country tied to the same external constraints and conditions of submission to the European Union and the Euro, to the interests and criteria of monopoly capital.

There is a need for a different policy that breaks with the right-wing policy that the PS, PSD and CDS governments have continued for years and that the current PS government has not abandoned in its essential options, making the necessary responses to the solution of the country's problems unfeasible.

A situation that the most reactionary political forces exploit, in an attempt to whitewash their responsibilities and relaunch their backward and anti-democratic project to destroy the realities of April that still remain, and impose a brutal setback on the lives of the Portuguese.

It is this project that the reactionary forces have in mind, as stands out from the revanchist action of PSD and CDS and their surrogates Chega and Iniciativa Liberal, the new spearheads of big capital that puts haste and pressure in the implementation of this old project.

A project aimed at the subversion of the Constitution of the Republic and amendment of the electoral laws that the PSD already prepares, to create artificial electoral majorities, at the same time that they explore all the pretexts for a breeding ground of social culture where a widespread suspicion about politics and the democratic regime itself foster irrational fears, racist and xenophobic tensions.

While there is a systematic campaign of historical revisionism, rehabilitation of fascist figures and exoneration of their crimes, they also seek to denigrate the role of resistance, and in particular the unique role of the communists in the struggle for freedom, to wipe out the preservation of the memory of resistance and to hide the role of the communists in the conquest of freedom and in the construction of the democratic regime.

At the present moment we must continue to fight without hesitation or discouragement in defence of democracy, for workers' rights, for employment with rights, for better wages and living conditions, for the right to healthcare, well-being, for quality public services, for education and culture, for the liberation of Portugal from the power of economic groups and submission to the impositions of the European Union.

Fight at a time when, under the excuse of the Covid-19 epidemic, big capital launches - once again - a powerful onslaught aimed at the withdrawal of rights and wages. Hundreds of thousands of workers are faced with situations of scarce health security in public transport and in the workplace. Others, in teleworking, are forced to accompany their children's studies, due to the closing of schools, in an impossible balance between professional and family life. Thousands of micro and small business owners are forced to keep their doors closed. Culture aggravates its situation, without an adequate response from the government.

Under the excuse of economic difficulties created by the epidemic, there is blackmail on the maintenance of jobs, threat of unemployment, pressure on wages, in a context of widespread precariousness, the result of decades of policies to favour employers and the options of the PS government, but we also have the will and readiness of the workers to fight this offensive, with courage and determination as was evident in the recent national day of struggle called by CGTP-IN.

The situation that the country is experiencing with the Covid-19 epidemic, makes the alternative policy that the PCP proposes more topical, even more necessary, a patriotic and left-wing policy, which will be possible with the strength and struggle of the workers and the Portuguese people, with the convergence of all democrats and patriots, of the forces and sectors that are truly willing to assume a break with the right-wing policy and with the widening of the influence of the PCP and its allies and is inseparable from the intensification and broadening of the struggles, small and large, of the working class, of the workers and of all the anti-monopoly strata, the decisive question to hasten the moment of its materialisation!

We have difficult tasks ahead of us. But by honouring the memory of our heroes, following the example of generations of communists who, firm in their convictions, confident in the justness and triumph of the communist ideal, were at the forefront of the struggles for a better country while building an indestructible Party, we will fulfil our duty.

48 years of fascist dictatorship were marked by continuous crimes that the Portuguese do not forget and the new generations have the right to know!

The Tarrafal Concentration Camp remains the most odious symbol of fascist repression, of its inhuman and murderous character. Inspired by Nazi methods and advised by them, it was conceived and built to annihilate, out of sight and public knowledge, the most outstanding combatants in the fight against fascism: the communists, but also anarchists and other democrats, who stood out in the January 18 Sailors' Uprising, in internationalist solidarity in defence of the Spanish Republic, in the long struggle against fascism. Most of the prominent leaders of the PCP were taken there at the time, like its General Secretary Bento Gonçalves, Militão Ribeiro, Alfredo Caldeira, Alberto Araújo, Manuel Rodrigues da Silva, Sérgio Vilarigues, Francisco Miguel and many others.

The prison regime in force at the Tarrafal Concentration Camp was based on systematic and organised violence, forced labour and punishments. A system that, quite rightly, led Tarrafal prisoners to call it the Camp of Slow Death.

The balance of that prison regime is tragic: hundreds of prisoners with ruined health and 32 murdered whose remains are laid down in this Memorial since February 18, 1978, an act that constituted one of the greatest demonstrations held after April, an expression of the recognition of the popular masses for their contribution in the conquest of freedom.

The translation of the remains of the Tarrafal martyrs and the construction of the Memorial was a result of popular action and the action of former Tarrafal prisoners, with the active role of comrade Francisco Miguel and our Party, fulfilled the pledge of those who would live the overthrow of fascism to do everything so that the remains of the murdered comrades would rest on home soil. Their names are there so that they are not forgotten, because, as the inscription says: "In the long fascist night / they were bearers of the flame of freedom / and for freedom they died / in the Tarrafal Concentration Camp."

Here we want to affirm that the PCP will not forget their lives sacrificed in defence of the interests of the workers, the people and the country, and will know how to honour their memory and their example, assuming their legacy, with dedication, militancy, courage, confidence and great joy, doing everything so that Portugal will never again experience fascism, so that the values of April are resumed.

Always speaking the truth, without surrendering or giving in to pressure and threats, fighting with courage and determination, learning from life and experience, providing new answers to new situations, the PCP will continue to be worthy of its heroic past of struggle, firm and convinced in the present struggle, looking to the future, always with the working class, the workers and the people.

That is what the PCP is and will continue to be, essential and decisive in the struggle for rights and for the improvement of living conditions, in the process of social transformation for democracy and socialism. The future has a Party!