Statement of the Central Committee of November 14th, 1998

In its meeting of 14th November 1998, the PCP's Central Committee analysed the results of the 8th November referendum, discussed some central issues of the national political situation and the Party's tasks in the near future, aiming at strengthening its intervention in defence of the people's interests, finding answers to the country's pressing problems, and presenting a left-wing policy alternative to the PS government's policy, whose main points have been supported by the PSD (*) and CDS-PP (**).

I - The referendum on regionalisation

1. The PCP's Central Committee stresses the negative nature of the 8th November referendum's results, achieved under particularly difficult conditions, which might jeopardise for a long time the materialisation of the continent's administrative regionalisation. At the same time, the CC believes that communists have legitimate reasons for being proud of having fought and acted with coherence, in accordance with their programmatic commitments and their principles, favourable to decentralisation and to participative democracy, and jointly and in cooperation with multiple trends of opinion, where the communists' participation has proved essential to their practice and to the coordination of their action. Also significant were the victories of "yes" in the region of Alentejo, in the district of Setúbal and in other regions' municipalities and parishes, revealing the PCP's influent role and the positive effects of its combative intervention in this campaign.

The Central Committee salutes all the Party's members and organisations that, with a great sense of responsibility, have actively contributed to set a vigorous and serious campaign, which conferred prestige to PCP.

2. The Central Committee considers this is an opportune occasion to remind that the PCP has frontally set against the imposition, arranged through the last constitutional revision, by agreement of the PS with the PSD and PP, of a referendum previous to the regionalisation materialisation; the PCP did not support the decision made by the PS on the 29th June, again jointly with the PSD and PP, of recommending that the President of the Republic convene this referendum.

Without prejudice to other factors, the Central Committee stresses that, to the expressive victory of the "no", might have contributed, jointly, the real complexity of the issue in debate and its submission to a referendum; the weariness caused by the PS's commitments, behaviours and attitudes for two years; the lack of information, the widespread confusions and misunderstandings concerning the real nature and effects of the proposed administrative regions and a campaign for "no" (namely on the part of the PSD and CDS-PP) intentionally directed towards the dissemination and exploitation of fears and towards the resort to the most primary lie and demagogy.

3. The PCP will not renounce the struggle for the values of democracy, decentralisation, a fair, participated and harmonious development, in which the struggle for regionalisation is inserted.

On its part, the PCP will pursue its same old battle for the municipalities and parishes' reinforcement, as it has always done, whether in associative issues or respecting the participation in management units and in Development Operational Programmes. But it stresses that these measures are complementary rather than alternatives to regionalisation and reminds that the same who now hypocritically claim to defend them are the same who have fought them for years whereas the PCP and the municipalities have defended them.

II - Some features of the political, economic and social situation

1. The Central Committee made a brief analysis of the political, economic and social situation.

Despite the government's optimistic considerations, the deep crisis in the Asiatic south-west and in Japan, the economic and social crash in Russia, the spreading of the crisis to Brazil and Latin American, the deceleration of the USA's growth, the international monetary and stock crisis are already a real threat as well as factors of serious disturbance to the European economies and, directly and indirectly, to the national economy.

The idea of the Euro as a shield protecting these economies will be quickly discarded by the propagandists of the single currency. Several sectors and areas of national economic activity already live under the impact of these events, to which are to be added, in a negative or positive sense, some factors of domestic level.

The crash in the foreign markets, with a particularly disfavourable pace of the exports during the 3rd trimester of the year. The rise in the total number of unemployed people enrolled in the employment centres recorded in the same period, reversing the decreasing trend registered since June 1996.

The Summer/Autumn crisis in the national stock market, with huge losses of millions of contos (***) of small savings. The news made public questioning the continuity, in the medium term, of some big investments - AUTOEUROPA, SIEMENS - largely supported by public capital and representing thousands of jobs.

The evidence that the still existing domestic demand for housing and consumption by the households is possible through an increasing resort to credit, worsening the already significant indebtedness of the Portuguese families.

Two productive sectors have a particularly difficult situation. In agriculture, where the difficulties in the swine and bovine markets resulting from the decrease in exports from the European Union to Russia, as well as the problem of the embargo laid by the European Union were added to an agricultural year with a production global loss of more than 100 millions contos. In fishing, the new constraints imposed to the activity of the national fishing fleet might lead to the reduction of 80% of the sardine fishing and to the strong possibility of a non-renewal of the fishing agreement between the EU and Morocco.

2. Contrary to this scenery there are ever-increasing fortunes and scandalous profits, of millions of contos, at the expense of the workers' exploitation and of the productive sectors' drainage. Particularly significant was the new and spectacular increase in the bank profits in 1997, from 181 million contos to 246 million contos, more 35,7%, after having increased 15,2% in 1996 and 8,1% in 1995, a trend that was kept during the first trimester of 1998. The profits of the sectors of large distributive trades are also on the rise. Within this context, the continuation of the Socialist Party (PS) government's main guidelines and economic and social policies and, particularly, its national budget is unacceptable.

The PS government has not put forward nor will a policy of rebalance in the distribution of national wealth through a generalised improvement in wages and pensions, especially for the lowest levels, in the price reduction of essential goods, such as the electrical energy and phone calls. At the same time, it does not make the necessary public investments in social areas and in the economic development of the country, which, besides being effective answers to economic problems the country is facing (dynamisation of the domestic market, for example) in the context of the international crisis, would make possible to lessen social and regional deep inequalities.

The PS government prefers to follow the neo-liberal guidelines at the service of the big capital interests defended by the European Union, IMF and other international bodies which, under the pretext of their concerns with the "over-heating of economy" and with a few more decimals in the inflation rate, want to save the bankers and speculators' interests, sacrificing workers and peoples. As example of this the choice made by the government of a budget submitted to the guidelines of the "Stability Pact", with the continuation of the privatisation scandalous process and the increase of tax benefits in favour of the financial capital and of a "Labour Package" that contains issues highly grievous to the workers' interests and rights.

3. The National Budget for 1999 follows a trend of great continuity as for the PS government's three previous budgets: first and main concern with keeping the constraints imposed by the single currency and by the "Stability Pact", pursuing the disastrous privatisation process, strong restrictions on wage increase, tax benefits to the capital incomes, to companies and financial transactions, and to economic groups.

These are the essential and determinant lines of the National Budget for 1999 rather than the amendments proposed for the assessment of work incomes ("IRS"), which fail for their shyness and insufficiency.

As already stated by its Parliament Group, the PCP will fight, with its own proposals, so that the National Budget may be improved for the benefit of workers and populations, and in favour of tax justice.

However the essential nature and guidelines of the PS government's Budget could only be inverted with a completely different budget, with a budget based on a left-wing policy, a budget with a determinant guideline directed to social and economic development, work incomes, a significant improvement in pensions, social and tax justice.

The National Budget for 1999 can only be accepted by those who defend the neo-liberalism policies and dogmas and the single currency, by those who favour the wealth concentration, that is, by the government's party that presents it with the support of the PSD and PP.

Thus, the Central Committee reaffirms the PCP's rejection of this Budget.

4.The PS government pursues a policy of re-establishment and reinforcement of the economic and financial groups' power. Recent developments even show an acceleration and deepening of the privatisation process, its extension to new sectors, namely in Public Administration, and the exceeding of boundaries the government claimed to set for itself. Besides BRISA, whose second privatisation phase, raising the private capital to more than 50%, has just been fulfilled, the government has announced the privatisation of a new slice of PORTUGAL TELECOM, and, what is particularly serious, has put forward the intention of fulfilling one more phase of EDP's privatisation, which, contradicting everything the government has said until now, will lead to the loss of the majority of the public capital, opening the way to the control by the big capital of this strategic company essential to the country. The negative consequences of privatisations to national economy, to the financing of the National Budget and the country's national and economic development, to employment and the workers' rights, to public services, their quality and costs, to the regional development and to the democratic regime itself, show more and more the need and urgency of interrupting this process. The PCP reaffirms that the country needs a strong public sector and public services with quality and thus stresses the importance and opportunity of the National Meeting of Cadres on this issue to be held on the 12th December.

5.The PCP's Central Committee alerts the workers and their organisations to the fact that the PS government persists with the attempt of putting forward and having the "labour package" approved.

This legislative offensive and the recent measures and proposals for the Public Administration, jointly with the amendments to the Social Security System and to early retirements, have as main purpose to disarm the generation of workers with rights and replace it with a new precarious one.

Public discussion of the most pernicious draft, the bill on part-time work, took place during the Regionalisation Referendum campaign. It should be pointed out that even so, it resulted in over 1500 opinion documents (adopted by workers' organisations or workplace meetings) being sent to the Assembly of the Republic. This was one of the highest levels of participation ever in a public discussion in two decades. Coupled with it there were denunciation initiatives, protests and struggles organised by the unitary trade union movement and by the CGTP-IN confederation.

During its national awareness-raising campaign in May-June and 23rd September-3rd October, the PCP contacted hundreds of thousands of working people, making a valuable contribution in terms of awareness-raising, mobilisation and struggle against the labour legislation package.

The Government's persistence in pursuing its legislative offensive, together with its unacceptable counter-proposal made to Public Administration workers, is becoming a rallying point, used by bosses' organisations and public sector company managers to use delaying tactics in collective bargaining, or to nullify agreements and refuse wage rises.

CGTP-IN's decision to organise a major mass event when the bill on part-time work comes up for debate in the Assembly of the Republic, as well as the national demonstration of Public Administration workers on 25th November, the strikes and other struggles at the CTT (National Post Office), at PORTUGAL TELECOM, at the railways, all show that there are conditions to further the struggle.

5. The Central Committee alerts to the fact that, as a consequence of right-wing policies, important social strata are exhibiting increasing discontentment and dismay, and politics are becoming increasingly discredited. This tendency is helped along by worrying developments in the judicial sphere, in particular the possible closure without results of some important pending judicial procedures. In addition, corruption cases have emerged at the JAE (Roads Board) and elsewhere, with accusations involving political parties that have been in power. This atmosphere of decadence in political life has favoured certain strains of right-wing and extreme right-wing propaganda against political parties (as a whole, drawing no distinctions), politicians and the regime. It is necessary to strongly counter these trends and to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to political righteousness and honesty of behaviour. Because of the amount of money and interests involved, privatisations are yet another area that favours huge shady deals.

III - Immediate tasks for the Party

1. We have come to the end of a period in which - while maintaining a high level of intervention in other areas - the PCP has been forced to dedicate considerable efforts to the electoral battles of two referenda. The Central Committee stresses the need for rapid intensification of political initiatives and action by the Party and its organisations, addressing the problems that most worry Portuguese people and most affect Portuguese society.

The Central Committee points out that audacious implementation of this directive is justifiable not just (although it would suffice) by the PCP's responsibilities in national life, but also because it has already become obvious that as the European Parliament and Assembly of the Republic elections draw near, the PSD and the PP will try to make people forget that throughout these last three years they have been the PS Government policies' main supporters, and will attempt to present their probable new "AD" alliance as radically opposed to the PS and its policies.

Furthermore, it is equally predictable that in a pre-election context both the PS and the PSD and PP will try to step up their demagogic rantings on social problems, in an attempt to shirk their real responsibilities and their convergence regarding the right-wing policies that were followed during this legislature.

There will predictably be a considerable increase in pressures toward bi-polarism, seeking to limit the voters' options to a rotation centered on the PS and the PSD (or AD) always pursuing the same basic political directives. The Central Committee stresses the heightened importance this attaches to the PCP's role as left-wing opposition against the PS policies and Government. It also makes it more important to affirm, within Portuguese society, the need to build a left-wing alternative to the right-wing policies, and the need to strengthen the PCP, as a decisive element in implementing such a crucial democratic goal.

2. The Central Committee stresses that it is very important to develop and intensify social struggles around the specific problems and demands of various social classes and groups, in particular workers, farmers, students, women, pensioners, communities involved in environmental protection struggles. It is necessary to step up the Party's political participation and pursue the work to strengthen its organising capability.

In this context, the Central Committee specifically points out the following as major immediate tasks for the Party:

  • To support and foster on-going and prospective struggles, particularly the struggle by workers and the unitary trade-union movement against the most pernicious pieces of the labour legislation package, especially the bill on part-time labour;

  • To pursue an independent awareness-raising campaign on the meaning of the labour legislation package both for the private sector and for Public Administration;

  • To publicise and argue for the proposals recently put forward by the Party, specifically on taxes, fiscal justice, social security, health, and lower energy tariffs;

  • To intensify political work among the population and in various areas of national life, around various pressing problems, against the privatisations, for affordable prices for services and utilities;

  • To continue to organise events as part of "PORTUGAL 2000 - debates for a left-wing policy" as an important arena for democratic dialogue and thinking about the nation's problems on the threshold of the new century and about the alternative;

  • To continue (overcoming the delays and difficulties caused by the requirements of this last semester's political and electoral work) the efforts and work to give new thrust to the Party's political work and visibility and to strengthen it organisationally. This means continuing the plan to hold organisation assemblies, to strengthen Party organisations' work among workers, to involve and assign responsibilities to a larger number of members in Party work, and to take advantage of the great possibilities that exist to recruit new members. 3. The Central Committee recommends that all Party organisations - regardless of future decisions on commemorations of the Party's 78th anniversary, International Women's Day, and the 25th anniversary of the April Revolution - immediately start to schedule events with a view to ensuring active and engaged Party participation in those commemorations, upholding and affirming the Party's goals and ideals, as well as the April Revolution's democratic and change-bearing values.

4.The Central Committee stresses the 6th Congress of JCP (Portuguese Communisrt Youth) scheduled for 27th-28th March 1999, and the need for Party involvement and support to help the success of the Congress and to strengthen JCP's position among the Portuguese youth.

The Central Committee decided to set the dates for the 23rd "Avante!" Festival for 3rd, 4tg and 5th September of next year.

5. The Central Committee approved the launching of a National Fund-raising Campaign, beginning in January of next year, with the central goal of raising additional financial resources essential to provide material backing for the European Parliament and Assembly of the Republic election campaigns.

6. The Central Committee congratulates all Party members and organisations for their engagement in the big political battles, for their confident affirmation of the Party's goals, principles and values, and for - together with the workers, the youth, the women, the farmers, and all those who counter the right-wing policies - their struggle, creating conditions for a true alternative, a left-wing alternative.

The Central Committee convened a new meeting for next January, to follow up on the implementation of decisions and directives on overall Party organisational strengthening, and to establish basic aspects of the Party's participation in the elections.

(*) (**) right-wing parties (***) one conto=one thousand escudos

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