Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary, Debate with young people «The everyday struggle in the struggle for the future»

The everyday struggle in the struggle for the future

The everyday struggle in the struggle for the future

I would like to begin by greeting you for this initiative to debate, in the context of the Centenary of our Party, the everyday struggles.

A special greeting both to those who took a little time from their studies in this final stage of the school year, and for many in the crucial stage of university access, or to those who, at the end of a long day’s work, are here with us to debate the problems, interests and aspirations of the youth.

The JCP comrades, still encouraged by the remarkable success of their 12th. Congress and by the many youth mobilisations in which they have been involved in recent months - the thousand struggles on the way to April, of which the Congress motto spoke - decided to hold this debate, associating the great causes, values, project and the path of our Party over 100 years of the many battles that each one of you fights daily in your school or workplace.

A connection so natural since, when accomplishing its 100 years of struggle, the PCP is, in our country, the Party with the longest history, but it is also the youngest Portuguese party.

The youngest because no other shows, like the PCP, the same strength, the same energy to intervene and fight for the transformation of Portuguese society.

Because no other offers solutions to national problems that are more creative, vigorous, coherent and effective and that better identify with the interests and aspirations of the youth.

Because no other is like this PCP, open to the militant contribution of the new generations.

Because no other is capable of such joy, optimism and confidence in the future.

Because no other places the interests of the workers, the people and the country above everything else.

Because no other battles for the construction of a new society without the exploitation of Man by Man, a society in which are ensured all rights to work, to healthcare, to education, to housing, to social protection and to retirement, and in which are banished all inequalities, injustices, discriminations and social scourges, the socialist society.

It is with these features that is written the entire history of the PCP.

Because we do not just hear about the problems of the Public School and its students. We are there, the young communists are there, who know the feel of difficulties.

Those who, now, after the long period of lockdown, have gone back to school and, in overwhelming majority, have found the same works yet to be completed, the same shortage of employees that is even more serious for all current needs.

Who are faced with the same overcrowded classes, in which there is neither the possibility of the physical distancing that they preach so much, nor of truly contributing for the students to make up for lost time and study, considering the multiple situations that exist. In this regard, we find it strange that the government has announced a Learning Recovery Plan, with many millions, but that, after reading it, it is not clear what will be done, when it will be done and how many professionals will be hired to the effect.

Who do not need the report by the National Education Council that was made public yesterday to know that 90% of schools did not have enough materials.

Who are faced with the unfair process of access to Higher Education, based on exams that deepen inequalities and that only serve to exclude those who have less access to information, to guided learning, to materials.

The young communists are in Vocational Schools and suffer, like the others, from the delays in scholarships, the very intense workloads, the use of traineeships as unskilled labour.

And they are in the Higher Education institutions where they feel the weight of the costs, starting with the tuition fees, the insufficiency of school social action and the problems with accommodation, which the epidemic has further enhanced.

We are there, in the companies and workplaces, where young communists are confronted every day with precariousness, low wages, the theft of rights. There we have the young communists working for digital platforms, that new and sophisticated form of exploitation, which leaves thousands of young people without any kind of protection in the present and in the future and makes companies even fatter.

The young communists are confronted with the problems of the National Health Service, with the lack of answers in terms of sexual and reproductive health and in terms of mental health that result from the disinvestment of successive governments.

Yes, if we have this path of action and struggle, it is because we have always been there, with a strong connection to the popular masses. We were there, in every fight where the youth was on the front line. Because our history, and the history of communist youth organisations, is not just about observing the problems. We were there, at all times, to give them solutions, to present proposals, to find ways, to act to transform reality.

On the front line of the fight against tuition fees, the fight for free and quality Public Schools for greater School Social Action.

Just a few weeks ago, legislation was published that originated in the proposals we made in the Assembly of the Republic, exempting students from paying tuition fees in the School Social Action accommodation, during periods when teaching activities were suspended; postponing deadlines for delivering theses and essays, without added costs; allowing all students access to all evaluation periods and postponing prescription deadlines.

Some, vexed by the fact that the initiative was not theirs, will say, it is not enough. But we, who have not lost sight of the ultimate goal of our struggle, the revolutionary transformation of society, also do not shy away from any struggle to improve the lives of workers, people and youth.

And after each advance, we affirm, the struggle continues.

As it continues for the end of national exams, after having been able, due to our persistence, to end them in the 9th grade, and in a situation in which textbooks are free throughout compulsory education, also because of our action and proposal.
As it continues for the rights of young workers and for better wages, as it was so dynamically expressed during May Day and in the National Demonstration of May 8, organised by the CGTP-IN, after it was possible, because we never gave up this battle, to take steps in the fight against precariousness in Public Administration, or to increase, even if insufficiently, the National Minimum Wage.

The struggle continues, for a free transport pass for all young people up to the age of 18, after having been able to lower the price of passes to 40 euros.

The struggle continues to guarantee free day care for all children, after we managed to achieve this goal for children from underprivileged families.

The struggle continues for the right to housing and for access to culture and sport, so essential for everyone's stability.

The struggle continues for the right to a healthy and balanced environment, a battle in which more and more young people are involved. A struggle that requires the dismantling of the strong campaign that aims to paint with environmental concerns a system that is also based on the plunder of natural resources and which the JCP so well denounces with the motto “Capitalism is not green”.

The struggle continues against all discrimination, for the equality of all human beings and for the right of everyone to be whoever they want. We, who were at the origin of the first law that granted equal rights to homosexual couples in non-marital partnership, who took on the fight against colonialism like no other, know that it is not yet time to let down our arms, as there is still a long way to tread in the fight against all types of discrimination, regardless of their origin. For the rights of women, against colonialism, racism and xenophobia, for the equal rights of homosexual couples, for the right of each and every one to happiness, regardless of their options or convictions, their creed or religion, their sexual orientation, or their choice of self-determination.

We, who have in our heritage the struggle for equality between men and women in law, know well that this is the time to pursue it, with the same determination, for equality in life and work.

Yes. This is our path. Knowing the problems and being at the forefront of the struggle for their resolution. That is what a Communist Party worthy of the name is for. And that is also why we are also the first to suffer the blows of persecution and repression.

We are not just talking about that heroic period of fighting fascism that mobilised so many democrats, with the communists at the head, to give everything they could for freedom, including their own lives.

We talk about everyday struggles, in companies, in schools, on the streets. It is on the fighters, and among them the communists, that new and greater limitations are placed on action. In schools, with the attempt to prevent the holding of Student Meetings and undue interference in the elections for Student Associations. In companies, with the attempt to prevent worker meetings and persecution and retaliation on those who fight. On the streets with the attempt to stop demonstrations, affixing posters, mural paintings.

Here we are, those whom the usual commentators, riding on the mainstream media and serving the interests of big business, accuse us of being undemocratic, and today continue to be the first to suffer from attempts to curtail freedoms.

As we have always said, the socialist society we defend is inseparable from a regime of freedom. As comrade Álvaro Cunhal stated, not all those who fight for freedom will be willing to fight for socialism, but all those who fight for a socialist society are willing to give their lives for freedom.

That is our everlasting choice and it is also the choice we make these days.

We spoke of the problems that persist and we know that there are many and that, in essence, they are not the responsibility of the epidemic, but rather stem from the options of successive governments, from submission to the interests of big business and the guidelines of the EU and the Euro, and now they have been more exposed.

The situation in the country and the present and future of Portuguese young people demand answers and solutions.

We already know that PSD and CDS, with their surrogates Chega and Iniciativa Liberal, dream of going back to the times of the theft of rights, cuts in income, destruction of public services and the social functions of the State. They even summon those who were mainly responsible for the hard times of right-wing policies, those who depleted the National Health Service and the Public School of workers and resources, at the behest of the troika, those who deregulated labour relations, cut holidays and increased working hours, those who forced hundreds of thousands of young people to emigrate, now appear with promises to cut straight, in the so-called structural reforms.

The Portuguese people are already aware of these!

The question, comrades, is to know what the PS government's options are. If it wants to continue bound to such dictates, impositions and interests, or if it decides to grab the instruments it has, namely at the level of the State Budget, with the measures and means that, through our initiative, are there, and give the answers that are needed, betting decisively on national production and boosting the economy and employment, valuing work and workers, increasing their wages and respecting their rights, defending public services and the social functions of the State.

And it is not enough for the government and the PS to state that they do not want to go back. It is necessary that intentions come out of the papers and instead of channelling millions to big capital, respond to the problems of those who need it. It is necessary to hire all the missing workers in the Public School. It is necessary to attack precariousness head on, clearly establishing for the intervention of The Working Conditions Authority (ACT) that each permanent job must correspond to a permanent employment contract. It is necessary that, after having temporarily suspended the expiry periods of collective bargaining, recognising how harmful it is to the balance of labour relations, it must assume its revocation.

Yes, the country's situation requires serious answers. The answers that the PCP has taken to the Assembly of the Republic and that so often face the barrier of PS, PSD, CDS, Chega, Iniciativa Liberal. It requires another policy, patriotic and left-wing, that assumes the values of April as a source of inspiration and a path to the future.

In this very difficult time, in which we face such tough tests and in which the ruling classes, because they do not forgive the irreplaceable role in defending the interests of the young generations that the PCP has, use their entire political and ideological arsenal to create difficulties for our intervention, this journey of 100 years of history is useful to us, always with the workers, always with the people, always with the young people, to encourage our struggle.

But it is also useful to us because we are sure that capitalism is not the end of history. It cannot be, nor will it be. And regardless of all other reasons, it would not be acceptable for it to be, a system whose unfair, predatory, undemocratic, aggressive nature leads to actions of plunder, intervention, aggression and war all over the planet, and prevents from taking the simple step of lifting patents on vaccines against Covid-19, to start mass production and distribution and thus prevent millions of deaths.

And it is particularly useful for us because of the trust of the many who continue to join this centuries-old struggle for a fairer, more fraternal, more democratic world, for socialism, for communism.

This is from where the certainty comes to us that the future has a Party.