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

«We want a more developed and fairer country, a Portugal with a future. We will build it!»

Warm greetings to all of you, to all the builders, participants and visitors of the Avante! Festival. A Festival of a prestigious newspaper, central organ of the Portuguese Communist Party!

An unparalleled Festival built with the work and art of a great militant collective!

A special greeting to the youth and to the JCP who, both in terms of construction and participation, are proof of a Festival filled with future. A Festival that holds a dream that we will pursue: that the project of the Portugal we are fighting for will one day have much of the beauty, solidarity and harmony of our Avante! Festival.

We also greet the artists who, with very different viewpoints, here brought their art in the multifaceted cultural dimensions, here they exercised their professional activity, here they gave expression once again to the freedom that the Portuguese people conquered with the 25th. of April, a greeting extended to the athletes, the technicians, to all the other participants in the vast programme of the Festival.

Here we are, with an ever new and renewed edition of the Festival that, once again, has been a huge success despite repeated campaigns of manipulation and lies, pressures and despicable blackmail.

Here we are, in this space of affirmation of the values of fraternity, peace, internationalist solidarity, democracy and socialism.

Here we are and here were thousands and thousands of participants in this incomparable and multifaceted Festival – the largest political and cultural event in the country.

Here we are, with our friends from all continents that we welcome from here, the communist parties and other progressive and anti-imperialist forces that honour us with their presence.

Here we are and here is this Portuguese Communist Party, ready and determined to continue the struggle in defence of the interests of workers, of our people, of the country, and in solidarity with the struggle of workers and peoples from all over the world.

A world in which capitalism confirms and reveals its contradictions, its exploitative, oppressive, aggressive and predatory nature, its structural crisis. This not only shows the inability of this system to respond to the main problems of humanity, but also shows that it is both a cause and factor of their worsening, which is reflected in the ever greater exploitation, inequalities and injustices, in the attack on democracy, in environmental degradation.

A world where the heightening of imperialism's aggressiveness brings new dangers, with increasing outbreaks of conflicts and an accelerating arms race, with the sharpening of the crisis and the relative decline of the main imperialist powers, namely the USA, in the face of the development of a vast process of realignment of forces at the international level.

This is obvious in the manoeuvres and provocations that are increasingly taking place against China, in the step-by-step siege of Russia, as well as in the actions of interference and aggression by imperialism against so many other countries.

The developments of the situation in Ukraine, with the successive worsening that the PCP in due time condemned, are part of this reality, with consequences for the entire planet.

The escalation of the war in Ukraine and the spiral of sanctions imposed by the US, the European Union and NATO – with the complicity of the Portuguese Government – are inseparable from the unbridled speculation and rising prices of energy, food and other essential goods, from the attack on peoples' living conditions, dragging the world into an even more serious economic and social situation.

Reality reveals those who do everything to prevent the war from ending, who do everything to amass colossal profits with its continuation, like the military-industrial complex and the great energy and food transnationals.

Yes, it is already clear whom the war serves, who gains from its continuation, who benefits from the suffering of peoples. Those who gamble on weapons and more weapons, on war and more war, do so because they see it as a source of profit and speculation.

Yes, we already see where the incitement to hatred, the exacerbation of xenophobia lead us.

The PCP is right to be on the side of peace and against war from the start, and the PCP is right to defend a political solution to the conflict, which puts an end to a war that has been going on for eight years.

The peoples want peace, not war. The PCP is, as it has always been, on the side of respect for the rights of peoples, including the right to peace, to choose with sovereignty their path of development. A peace that will only be possible with justice and that must be achieved together with the struggle against exploitation and oppression.

A struggle that involves not letting the workers and peoples bear the costs of imperialism's strategy of confrontation. A struggle that involves the defence of friendship and cooperation among peoples and solidarity with all those who resist and struggle, as is the case of Cuba and Palestine, with those who all over the world do not renounce on treading the paths of conquering freedom, democracy and socialism.

In our country today we have a different political, economic and social situation from the one we faced a year ago when the last Avante! Festival was held.

We were fighting, then, an important battle to see recognised the need to start a different course to respond to the structural problems of the country that the right-wing policy of successive governments had created. But also, the pressing problems that were getting worse and was urgent to answer, as can be witnessed today in the field of healthcare.

With our relentless initiative and struggle for the defence, restoration and achievement of rights, and with the struggle of the workers and people, we have made progress: restoration of wages, pensions and rights that had been cut, free school textbooks and day care centres, extra increases in pensions, intermodal social transport pass, among others, facing at every step the resistance of the minority governments of the PS.

Resistance which, as a result of its options in favour of large economic and financial interests and the submission of the government to the European Union, turned into a complete blockade in the response to major national problems and then an escape, premeditating and provoking a political crisis and elections with the aim of gaining an absolute majority and, with the support of backward and reactionary forces, to resume its policy.

It is this option that marks the governing action of the absolute majority of the PS, increasingly leaning to the right!

The result of this premeditated operation is visible today with the worsening of the main national problems and a fast degradation of the social situation, in which the increase in the cost of living weighs worryingly, boosted with the utilisation by the great national and transnational capital of the epidemic and heightened by the aggressive wave of exploitation and speculation promoted under the pretext of war in the East and the sanctions.

The situation we are experiencing today is serious and worrying. But no less serious are the options of a government and a policy that turn a blind eye and give way to speculation, exploitation and the shameless siphoning of the people's living conditions by the big economic power.

The inflationary spiral that has been going on for over a year is worrying and serious, and it is advancing unchecked, devouring the purchasing power of wages and pensions and putting entire sectors of the national economy at risk, with thousands of micro, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, farmers and fishermen hard hit with the rising costs they have to bear.

But, no less serious, is the policy of make-believe measures. A policy that evades the essential, that evades the restoration of the purchasing power of wages and pensions and the necessary and indispensable control of prices. A policy that unites the PS government and all the backward and reactionary forces of PSD, CDS, Liberal Initiative and Chega with their false and hypocritical measures of handouts to hide the origin and mechanisms of extortion and overexploitation.

An inflationary spiral that they sold to public opinion as a passing phenomenon, while rejecting wage increases to avoid encouraging inflation. We know well the guidebook of those who bet on the exploitation of work: When there is no inflation, they refuse to raise wages for that reason, when there is inflation, wages are not increased so as not to favour the “inflationary spiral.” For them, the only good spiral is the spiral of endless speculation and profits, with wages always on the losing side.

There is no escape from the mystification! Serious emergency measures are urgently needed to effectively combat the rising cost of living. Wages and pensions have already been eaten up in these eight months of the year by unbearable inflation, which has reached 7%. In some essential products the increases are much higher.

Everything is frighteningly more expensive - food, energy, fuel, rent and mortgage payments, school materials, medicines.

Those who receive the Minimum Wage already have, at least, a cut of 50 euros in their salary and today they have a lower purchasing power than they had in January.

Further interest rate hikes and a colossal increase in gas are announced for October.

Everything goes up and continues to go up and wages and pensions get shorter and shorter, while a few amass colossal profits.

In the first six months of the year, the large distribution groups amassed millions more than they had ever gathered. We saw, for example, Sonae from Continente Supermarkets doubling its profits. In banking, the profits of the six largest banks reached 1.3 billion euros. In the main companies listed in the stock market, where GALP and EDP are also present, their profits already exceed 2.3 billion euros!

This exploitative and speculative fury that goes on unpunished must be stopped. The government can and must intervene and not hide, as PSD, CDS, IL and Chega and CDS defend, behind false regulations to serve the interests of big capital and the new privatising liberal order.

It is time to put an end to the scandalous theft of the workers and the people!

It is time to go beyond words and prevent the fast impoverishment of millions of Portuguese, coming forward with a set of emergency measures, such as those defended by the PCP.

Measures to combat the increase in the cost of living and the worsening of injustices and inequalities, as well as to stop the deterioration of the economic situation.

Emergency measures that must be implemented starting in September and that, articulated among themselves, allow four essential aims: - to ensure the restoration and valorisation of the purchasing power of workers and pensioners, combat the increase in prices, guarantee compliance with the social rights and a fairer distribution of wealth.

A general increase in wages and pensions in a percentage that starting this month ensures the restoration and increase of the purchasing power of workers and pensioners, as well as the interim increase in the National Minimum Wage to 800 euros, counteracting the effect of inflation on the deterioration of living conditions. Criteria that we propose can also be extended to the reinforcement of social benefits.

With the aim of curbing the rise in prices, we propose price control or setting maximum prices for essential goods, namely energy, fuel and foodstuffs, including the possibility of setting prices below those currently practiced, reversing the increases that took place. In energy and fuels, we propose setting maximum prices, controlling refining margins and tax measures such as reducing the VAT rate on electricity and gas to 6%. Regarding foodstuffs, we propose price control measures on the basic food basket, which includes bread, meat, fish, among other products, as well as guaranteeing the control of the margins of operators in the food distribution and logistics sector and articulating these measures with the necessary support for production and the guarantee of payment of fair value to producers.

Thirdly, with the aim of guaranteeing the compliance of social rights, we defend emergency measures in the areas of healthcare and education with the immediate contracting and valorisation of its professionals. In housing, measures are required to stop the increase in rents by setting a maximum ceiling for their updating, which in no case should be higher than the rate defined for the current year, together with the freezing in the regime of supported rents. The setting of a maximum spread to contain the increase in the costs borne by families with housing credit, and the adoption of a regime to suspend the execution of mortgages and evictions.

In order to guarantee a fairer distribution of wealth, we propose a windfall tax on the profits of economic groups, so that a substantial part of the billions of euros of profits gathered since the beginning of the year can revert to investment in public services, to support national production and strengthen social policies.

The difficulties that are being imposed today on the workers, the people and the country are great, but we are not doomed to that path.

In this struggle in defence of the living conditions of workers and people and for the development of the country, the defence and guarantee of public services and social functions of the State that relieve the family budget and effectively guarantee the universal rights to healthcare, education, social security, housing, mobility and culture are of particular importance.

Redoubled importance when the country is faced with years after years of disinvestment that have led to its degradation and turning these rights into a source of business and profit.

What is happening in the National Health Service and in its present difficulties is a clear portrayal of this policy pursued over the years by the PS, as well as by the PSD and CDS and which their surrogates from IL and Chega aspire to continue.

We are all aware of the existing shortages of human, technical and financial resources. That the access of the Portuguese to healthcare is more difficult and the alternatives weigh increasingly on the family budget. As we have already stated, it is urgent to valorise the careers and pay of healthcare professionals and to move forward with a regime of full dedication that contributes to the attachment of professionals to the NHS.

The government knows that the longer it takes without taking essential measures, the more the NHS response degrades. Despite this, the government does not come forward with solutions! It is not with the resignations of ministers that the NHS is saved. It is with investment, valorisation and fixation of professionals that the right to healthcare is guaranteed.

Healthcare is everyone's right, not just of those who can afford it. We do not accept that!

It is necessary to recover and save the NHS and the PCP will not give up fighting for the right to healthcare in equal conditions for all!

As it does not give up on intervening and acting to give another dimension to public investment, which has been in sharp decline for years, a victim of the captivation policy and the Euro criteria.

The Public School is paying this political option, where solving such urgent problems as the lack of teachers, helpers and specialised technicians and valuing all professionals remains unanswered.

It is Culture that repeatedly sees the promised target of 1% of the State Budget for the sector postponed.

It is the children, their fathers and mothers who aspire to have guaranteed free day care centres. This month the PCP’s proposal is to be implemented, but it is not yet complete. Thousands of children are still left out because the PS resisted and continues to resist the promotion of an indispensable public network of day care centres.

Victims of this policy are also major projects to support national development, which are systematically postponed - railways, a new airport to actually replace Portela airport, a new crossing of the Tagus, public housing and reinforcement of transport.

There we have the political and ideological campaign promoted by the big economic interests to impose their conception of a minimal State. A State that, instead of serving the people and the development of the country, only serves their own interests. Their aim is clear: - they want a minimum State for social functions and maximum for their businesses. A State that exempts them from paying taxes or only imposes a residual payment on them and also guarantees them the conditions conducive to the exploitation of work, free of rules or with minimum rules.

They are committed to the materialisation of this project, relying on the connivance and subservience of right-wing political forces in government and outside it.

The capture of public services for business, based on the withdrawal of State means to ensure them, using fiscal policy as an instrument for the practical subversion of the State as a guarantor of universal social rights, is today one of their main goals.

That is why big capital demands further cuts on the tax on profits. A cut that the PS government already admits considering and with criteria that, fundamentally, serve the economic groups.

That is why we have the usual cynical talk that there are “excessive taxes.” Yes, there are more taxes, but it is for those who work and less taxes for those who profit and speculate. It is with these in mind, the taxes on capital, that the representatives of big capital and their instruments of right-wing policies are already crowding in the rush to lower them.

They want to pay even less than they should and see their profit margins increase. At the same time, they evade wage increases, denying workers not only what they are entitled to in terms of pay, they seek to reduce State revenues that are essential to guarantee more and better public services, doubly penalising the workers.

The effective rate of the Corporate Tax (IRC) has been going down for years, both the nominal and, particularly, the effective. And what we have seen is the rich getting richer and feeding their offshores, evading taxes. The workers and public services getting poorer and the promised big leap in the economy with lower taxes is the low flying leap of stagnation.

Yes, all this means, besides a loss for the country, a double loss for the workers who have also seen their labour rights diminished by the action of successive governments and which the current government resists replacing, when it comes forward with false solutions with its so-called “Decent Work Agenda.”

A proposal that maintains the grievous rules of the Labour Code. That instead of fighting precariousness with a view to ending it, tolerates it and breathes new life into it. A proposal that maintains the expiry of collective bargaining. Flees from the restoration of the principle of more favourable treatment for the worker. Refuses the restoration of overtime payment amounts or limitations on dismissals.

The announced guarantee of decency only remained in the title of the so-called “Agenda”!

The consequences of this policy are the deepening of inequalities, poverty and injustice. It is pushing increasingly Portuguese into emigration, as is happening, and on the rise again!

The evolution of national life shows that Portugal needs another truly alternative, patriotic and left-wing development policy, freed from the external constraints of submission to the European Union, the Euro and monopoly capital.

A policy that values work and workers, their wages and their rights, promotes public services and the social functions of the State, guarantees strong public investment in the construction and modernisation of infrastructure and a fair fiscal policy. A policy that defends national production and productive sectors and promotes the replacement of imports by national production.

A country that does not produce has no future! A strategic and priority issue that is always overlooked. The first months of the year reveal the persistence of serious imbalances in the economic structure. Industrial production always falling short of the needs and on the path of practical stagnation. A food deficit that is one of the biggest in Europe. The trade deficit has worsened considerably. The re-industrialisation of the country is pressing. The adoption of a programme that aims at food sovereignty and considering agriculture, cattle breeding, forestry and fisheries as strategic productions cannot be postponed.

A different policy that, ending the liberalisation of the economy, promotes the recovery of public control over strategic sectors and ensures a different role for the State in the defence of national interests.

Hosannas were sung to a saviour Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP). The governor of the Bank of Portugal now tells us that its structural impact will be limited! So many fireworks, so much propaganda! More money for big capital that preys on guaranteed income sectors. Little, very little to overcome our structural deficits, modernise, innovate and diversify our productive sectors and to support MSMEs!

A different policy to move ahead in the promotion of territorial cohesion and development, combating the current regional asymmetries, depopulation, economic and social desertification of the interior regions of the country.

The forest fires that we have witnessed, without ignoring the lingering drought, are a good example of years of neglect and absence of a policy for agricultural development and forest management, of abandoning the development of the rural world and the interior.

A policy that also guarantees the right to a healthy environment and ecological balance, fighting against the commodification of nature and the prevention and mitigation of the effects of climate change

Yes, we need the right answers to face these problems, such as the drought that is now plaguing us and which have been postponed, and not increases in the price of water as the dealers claim!

We need a policy that fully assumes the defence of the democratic regime and the fulfilment of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic. A policy that guarantees the rights of citizens, the fight against racism, xenophobia and corruption. A policy that ensures and affirms the full right of the Portuguese people to decide their own destiny.

In the situation we are experiencing, the strengthening of the struggle of workers and people, of their organisation and active presence in national life is an imperative of the present time!

It is with the strength and struggle of the workers, their organisation, their unity and determination that the course of events can ultimately be changed. Curb and reverse this policy of increasing the cost of living, guarantee a general increase in wages, end the scourge of precariousness, repeal the burdensome rules of labour legislation. It is this ongoing struggle that we welcome from here - the many struggles in companies, the important unity and convergence initiatives promoted by the CGTP-IN, the great trade union central of Portuguese workers, but also the struggles of the populations, students, women, pensioners, farmers. All these struggles, indispensable to further social transformation, and to affirm an alternative that breaks with the policies of the right.

This wonderful Festival, our struggle and intervention, our values, our project prove the Portuguese Communist Party as the great political force that the workers and people need to build a Portugal of economic and social progress!

The force that fights for concrete and immediate objectives, with the workers and the people, resisting, fighting for every right, for every advance.

A force at the service of the workers and against exploitation, injustice and social inequalities promoted by big capital.

A force of opposition to the PS and the reactionary projects, but above all a force that has the solutions and answers to face these times.

The force of the political alternative and of the patriotic and left-wing alternative policy at the service of the people and the country.

Yes, we are the force of the alternative, coherent and determined that the workers, the people and the country need to be increasingly strong and intervening. A well-informed force that does not give up, at every moment, at every situation, at every stage of development, accompanying and analysing the reality of political, economic and social life and from it, seeking the answers that the defence of the workers, of the people and the development of the country demand.

It was in view of the evolution of the country's situation, the lack of answers to national problems and the negative economic and social trends that are present today, that the Central Committee of the PCP, reaffirming the conclusions of our last Congress, decided to hold a National Conference with the aim of contributing to the analysis of the situation and its developments, which will take place on November 12 and 13.

A Conference focused on responding to the country's problems, on the priorities of intervention and strengthening of the Party and on the affirmation of its project, creating a broad involvement of the party collective.

The National Conference “Taking the initiative, strengthening the Party, answering the new demands” is here and from here we call on everyone to participate with their contribution in the debate that will follow.

Yes, with everyone's contribution, we are going to give a confident perspective of the future to our struggle and to the struggle of the workers and our people, for a better life and for the development of the country.

Yes, let us at the same time work to ensure the tasks of strengthening the Party organisation! We do not surrender, we do not conform and we do not give up!

We want a more developed and fairer country, a Portugal with a future. We will build it!

We know what we are and what we want to be: we are and we want to be the Portuguese Communist Party, with its history, its struggle, its identity, its project for the future.

We affirm its class nature as the Party of the working class and of all workers, the one that best upholds the interests and aspirations of all anti-monopoly classes and strata. We stress its supreme goal of building a new society, free from exploitation and oppression, socialism and communism.

We are a Party with an unmistakable identity, the reason for its existence, its strength and its irreplaceable role. Always with the workers and the people, always with national sovereignty and independence, always with internationalist principles, we are and will be the Portuguese Communist Party - the Party to which we are proud to belong!

Long live the Avante Festival!

Long live Internationalist Solidarity!

Long live the JCP and the Youth!

Long live the PCP!