Speech by Portuguese Communist Party

Meeting of communist and other leftwing forces of european countries

Comrades and friends,

In each of our countries, in Europe and throughout the world, events and processes have recently taken place in which there is undoubtedly much that is new. Their understanding requires, apart from the normal flow of information, a frequent exchange of opinions. This is a first goal that we propose for our Meeting, a goal that seems modest but to which the PCP continues attaching great importance. A second goal, and a more demanding one, is that of collecting ideas and suggestions for possible lines of joint activity and initiative. At a time when big business and the big powers (although in a context of rivalries and contradictions that are actually becoming more acute) are increasingly coordinating in ever closer fashion their offensive of exploitation, oppression and war – and in the PCP’s opinion, this is a particularly characteristic and dangerous trait of the current international situation – any steps forward that we may take in this direction will be of great value.

In Portugal – against the backdrop of, on the one hand, a continuous and violent offensive by big capital and the governments at its service (formed by both the Socialist Party, PS, and/or the right-wing parties, PSD and CDS) and, on the other hand, a persistant resistance and struggle by the workers and other anti-monopolist strata – important political battles have been waged.

Since the PCP’s 17th Congress, which was held in November 2004, and in less than one year, there have been successive elections for the national Parliament (Assembleia da República, February 2005), for Local Government (October 2005) and for President of the Republic (January 2006). In all of them the PCP scored good results. In the first two of these elections, running together with our allies within the framework of the Broad Democratic Coalition (Coligação Democrática Unitária, including the Greens and independents), we increased our share of the vote, the number of our MPs and the number of elected Presidencies in municipalities (having won back important cities). In the elections for President of the Republic, we achieved 8.6% of the vote for our candidate, the PCP’s General Secretary, comrade Jerónimo de Sousa. Of course, election results are not the only, or even the main, criterion of assessment. But in the concrete situation that exists today, these results - that were achieved despite a colossal disproportion of resources and the extremely intense campaigns of media conditioning and discrimination – have a profound political significance: they show that not only is the PCP not doomed to an “irreversible decline”, as our opponents systematically predict, as we have strong popular support and great prospects for further strengthening it. It was with this idea in mind that we held a Central Commitee meeting to debate organizational issues and that we decided to dedicate this year of our 85th anniversary to strengthening the Party. We are engaged in a major effort to expand our ranks, strengthen our grassroot organizations that were severely affected by profound changes in the country’s social and economic reality, and to grow deeper roots for our Party in the shopfloors and workplaces.

In the meantime, the country is going through a profound crisis that continues to grow worse. This crisis is the result of almost thirty years of right-wing policies carried out by the PS and PSD. To overcome the crisis, what is needed is not a mere correction of course, but a clean break with such policies.

The change required by the defeat of the right-wing coalition in the general elections did not materialize. Having won an absolute majority, the Socialist Party of José Socrates, once in office, not only continued, but actually stepped up in many respects, the right-wing governments’ policies. Discontentment quickly grew, paving the way for the victory of Cavaco Silva in the January 22 [2006] Presidential elections, in other words, for the take-over, by the right-wing and for the first time since the April [1974] revolution, of the Presidency of the Republic.

This represents a very serious development, which tends to accelerate the centralization and concentration of capital and to seriously worsen social injustice and inequalities, to further increase unemployment (already at its highest since the 25th of April [1974]), to make precarious jobs more widespread, to dismantle public services, to attack fundamental rights. This development will tend to hand over to the private sector, for next to nothing, anything that is profitable, including the power, communications, transport and health sectors. It is a development that jeopardizes the democratic regime which is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic, paving the way for an anti-democratic reorganization of the State, which will transform it into a direct tool of the big economic groups’ interests: a “minimal State” whose social functions will become residual, but whose coercive component (Armed Forces, Security [apparatus], Justice [system]) will be strengthened in liaison with imperialism, and with a foreign policy of national submission.
All of this raises a fundamental question regarding the role and nature of the Socialist Party, that cannot be avoided. Without its active contribution, the domination of Portugal by big business and imperialism would never have reached this point. It is its popular base and its “left-wing” image that supports right-wing policies which are so unpopular that the right-wing forces themselves would be unable to implement them. The PS has not just surrendered to the prevailing neo-liberal policies: it is today, under the Socrates leadership, an indispensible tool in materializing these policies.
Undoubtedly each country has its own reality. But assssing what social-democracy – as well as the trade union movement associated with it - represents today in Europe, and what interests it serves, is of great importance in confronting capital’s extraordinarily violent offensive.

Naturally, we do not view the developments in our country’s situation in isolation from developments in Europe and in the world. The steps backward on an economic and social level, as well as the dangers resulting from the new situation in Portugal, as far as political power is concerned, are part and parcel of more general trends. They namely result from the unfavourable balance of forces that was created with the disappearence of the USSR and the defeats of socialism, from the specificities of capitalism’s crisis in its present stage of development, from the exploitative and aggressive counter-offensive which imperialism undertook, with its deliberate option for a solution based on force to the acute contradictions that mark the contemporary world. From this perspective, we wish to focus our attention on three aspects and, at the same time, put forth, if only in general terms, some suggestions for our cooperation.

The first – Portugal and Europe. The April 1974 revolution, which freed Portugal from fascism, put an end to colonialism and the colonial wars and undertook profound anti-monoply transformations that were in the interest of all our people, took place in a favourable international context, that was marked by major victories of the progressive forces (Vietnam), by important disarmament agreements, by steps forward in the process of detente and peaceful coexistance. The holding of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Helsinki Final Act markd a new stage in the life of the continent. The dissolution of political-military blocs, the abolition of nuclear weapons, general, simultaneous and controlled disarmament seemed then to be achievable goals.

Today the situation is radically different. We know why. We know, above all, that the disappearence of the USSR and the dissolution of the Warsaw Treaty, which imperialism used to justify its agressive policy and alliances, instead of leading to the dissolution of NATO, led to its strengthening, to its extension, to its adoption of an explicitly offensive and aggressive doctrine, to the deployment of military forces to Afghanistan, to the drawing up of plans for “force projection” in Africa (where major military manoeuvres have been announced for June) and in other regions of the world. The USA, instead of withdrawing its troops and bases from the continent, have consolidated their mechanisms of military hegemony, have sown bases in the East, have shamelessly used the European air space for criminal secret CIA operations of kidnapping, torture and murder. The imperialist march towards the East, in support of counter-revolution and with impositions of a colonial nature, are a terrible reality. The OSCE has been devoided of its original content. The neutrality and non-alignment of various States is under a brutal attack that counters the will of their peoples. The European Union is becoming more militarized. Germany is increasingly asserting itself as an imperialist military power with dangerous ambitions. The war in the Balkans, with the violent dismemberment of Yugoslavia, has led to an unacceptable situation of protectorates that represent a brutal interference in the lives of the peoples of the region.

We do not seek to be exhaustive. Other comrades will help to complete the picture of insecurity and of unequal relations that we witness in Europe, as well as in the relations with other regions, namely the Middle East and North Africa. But what has been said is aleady sufficient to show that we face a serious situation, to which all peoples must be alerted. In our opinion, this situation requires a more systematic and collaborative action of protest and demand, on issues such as the dissolution of NATO, the closing down of foreign military bases on the continent, the opposition to military acts of aggression against other peoples. In these, as in other matters, it is important to ensure the cooperation of our Parties, as well as of other left-wing forces in the European Parliament and in the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe and of OSCE.

The second – Portugal, 20 years after joining the EEC. This is an issue that we address in greater detail in a separate document that we are circulating among you. Here, we just wish to underline that the reasons that led the PCP to oppose Portugal’s entry into what was then the Euroepan Economic Community have been confirmed. These are the same reasons that lead us to reject today the current process of “European construction” and to fight for a Europe of progress, peace and cooperation among sovereign States, equal in rights.

In effect, our integration within the EEC was a major operation of pressure and interference against the Portuguese revolution, an active instrument in supporting the process of reconstituting the economic and political power of the big economic groups that - in order to defend democracy and an overall economic development - had been liquidated by the revolution.

At the same time, the joint offensive by reaction and social-democracy on a domestic level, and by the Community’s policies and mechanisms from abroad, prevented the independent development that would be in accordance with the low level of our productive forces and with the real interest of our people and of our country. It brought about the destruction of the country’s productive network (namely of our agriculture, fisheries and basic industries such as steelworks). It induced a model of growth that was based on cheap and low-skill labour force. It handed over the main levers of our economy to domestic and foreign big business. The subordination to the “Lisbon Strategy” and the “Stability and Growth Pact”, with their impositions such as liberalizations and budget deficits, has had particularly harmful consequences for our country. At the same time, the EU’s configuration as an imperialist economic-political-military bloc and the policies of submission carried out by successive governments, are profoundly hurting Portugal’s independence.

We naturally do not say that “everything” about the integration is bad, nor do we defend for Portugal an impossible and ruinous autarkic isolation. What we do not accept are relations of dependence and domination by big capital and the EU’s big powers, which jeopardize our national sovereignty and with it, political democracy itself. Such relations are being imposed in an even more serious way upon the new members from Eastern Europe.

The present “European construction” is not a fatality. The resistance and struggle of the workers and the peoples can impose different dynamics of mutuallly beneficial cooperation. The “No” vote in France and the Netherlands against the so-called “European constitution”, which defeated in the short term an extremely dangerous project by big business, opens the way for a different Europe of progress, peace and cooperation. For our part, we do not see this as a possibility without major mass struggles, without major social and political upheavals, without progressive changes in a number of countries. Be it as it may, it is very important that, despite the substantial differences that exist among us on issues of an institutional nature, we strengthen our cooperation in order to bury, once and for all, the so-called “constitution” and to coordinate a broad campaign of awareness-raising in order to defeat the ongoing manoeuvres that seek to relaunch the project and impose some kind of farcical ratification. The dirty work that seems to be planned for the Portuguese Presidency of the EU in the second half of next year, after the May elections in France, must be exposed as of now.

At the same time, it is important to pursue a common or converging action against the most harmful expressions of the predominant neoliberal policies, such as mass unemployment, poorly paid jobs with no rights, longer working hours, increased age of retirement, the attacks against trade union and labour rights and many other aspects. The defense of historic achievements, such as public services – in health, education, social security – are particularly important and mobilizing and the struggle against the Bolkenstein directive must continue.

The third – the worsening international situation. This Meeting is taking place in a very dangerous international context which the Statement of February 21 by the PCP’s Political Committee, on the occasion of the so-called “cartoon crisis” describes in its fundamental traits. We will not repeat this assessment here. What we wish to do is merely draw your attention to the following aspects.

Firstly, the escalation of imperialist aggression in the Middle East and Central Asia and the need to intensify the struggle for the withdrawal of the troops of occupation from Iraq and Afghanistan, to prevent the aggression against Syria and Iran which is being planned by the USA with the EU’s collaboration and to increasingly support the Palestinian people in the struggle for their national rights, demanding Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories and the end of its policy of State terrorism and sending delegations to Palestine as a sign of solidarity with the progressive forces in the PLO.

Secondly, the growing attacks against rights, freedoms and guarantees that are spreading in Europe, with unacceptable “securitarian” trends and the CIA’s criminal activity, together with frequent expressions of racism and xenophobia, of the trivialization and whitewashing of fascism, of historical revisionism, of anti-Communism. In this context, the significance of the Council of Europe’s “anti-Communist resolution”, despite the defeat of the most reactionary and revanchist goals of its sponsors, should not be underestimated. The struggle in defence of democracy takes on an increasing importance and the persecution and banning of Communist parties and the attempts to criminalize their ideology must be firmly opposed, and must be met with joint initiatives that are as broad as possible. The solidarity with the Czech Communist Youth and with the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia is of the greatest imprtance in the present moment.

Finally, we face an international situation of a contradictory nature. Imperialism’s violent offensive to impose upon the world a totalitarian new order, under US hegemony, coexists with a strong resistance by the workers and the peoples and with great potential for progressive and revolutionary developments. The advances of progressive forces in Latin America (with Cuba and Venezuela in the front ranks of the struggle) or important processes of realignment of forces on the world level, in which China has a growing role, should be particularly valued. There are strong reasons to have confidence on the possibility of - through the struggle in each country together with the strengthening of common actions on a European and world level - resisting and inverting the present dangerous course of world events and move forward on the path of peace, social progress and socialism.

All of this makes the strengthenng of our cooperation imperious. Above our real differences in past history, ideological stances, projects, historical assessments – in particular regarding the history of the working-class and national liberation movement - we must place that which brings us together and unites us in the current complex and dangerous situation. Faced with the seriousness of the present situation, it would be dramatic if we were not able to do so.

We sincerely wish that this Meeting may be a contribution in the right direction.

  • Central
  • Events and International Meetings
  • Cuba
  • European Union
  • Syria
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam
  • War
  • Yugoslavia