Statement of the PCP Central Committee of March 18th - 19th, 2005

The Central Committee of the Portuguese Communist Party met on March 18 and 19 [2005] to assess the country's political situation and, in particular, the consequences of the February 20 election results and the appointment of the 17th Government, as well as to prepare the local Government elections and to implement the guidelines and decisions taken by the Party's 17th Congress, with a view to strengthening the Party.

1. The PCP's Central Committee carried out a preliminary analysis of the composition and Programme of the new Socialist Party (PS) government, with Jose Socrates as Prime Minister.

Confirmed were the concerns that the PCP expressed both during the election campaign and after the elections, in view of the absolute majority obtained by the Socialist Party, that the PS's victory does not guarantee the real change in policy that the Portuguese people demanded through their vote and which the country needs. The repeated statements stressing that the PS will govern only in accordance with its electoral program - given its negative guidelines in various respects and the vague and undefined character of many other pledges it expresses - enable us to foresee the continuation of the right-wing policies in fundamental issues of national politics.

On the other hand - and despite the fact that more than the name of the Cabinet members, what is important is to assess concrete policies - the composition of the Government has increased our existing concerns, due to the importance, in its ranks, of members of previous PS Governments, that were implicated in implementing right-wing policies in key areas and that were punished for this reason by the Portuguese people. Also of concern are the close links of some members of the new Government to the financial sector, to big economic groups or to a stubborn defence of neo-liberal guidelines and policies.

And, if the first measures announced and statements made by some members of Government revealed worrying signs at the very beginning of the Socialist Party administration, the presentation of the Government Programme has ended up confirming them.

The Government Programme, which has now been presented, confirms the unease and concerns which in due time were expressed by the PCP. It does not respond to the needs of the country, of the workers and the communities and does not correspond to the longing for a real change that was expressed by the February 20 election results.

The Government Programme lacks the indispensable corrections to most of the drastic measures taken by the [previous, right-wing] PSD/CDS-PP government, such as the Social Security Basic Law, the handing over of new hospitals to private entities, the labour regime in Public Administration.

Although announcing some positive measures, there is no reference whatsoever to an increase in the National Minimum Wage, to the convergence of the lowest pensions [to that Minimum Wage], of the defence of essential public services, of an end to the policy of privatisations, of the limitation of tax benefits for the banking and financial sector. There are also no concrete guidelines in relation to the serious situation confronting
the national textile sector.

There is also a confirmation, as of now, of negative political guidelines, such as the continuation of a restrictive budgetary management, in line with the guidelines of the Stability Pact, changes to the electoral laws for the Assembly of the Republic and for Local Government, the acceptance of the European Constitution and of the Lisbon Strategy, the increase in the retirement age and the levelling of the retirement conditions in public administration with those of the general regime of social security, the postponement of regionalisation, the absence of clarity on the issue of the Labour Code, the option for a referendum on the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy instead of changing the law in Parliament and, on an international level, the alignment with the Atlanticist theses of subordination to U.S. imperialism.

The Government Programme that has now been presented enables us to foresee that it will be necessary to ensure a strong social and political engagement so as to counter the continuation of the right-wing policies and to defend the implementation of a truly alternative policy. This battle will have the PCP's commitment and initiative.

2. The PCP's Central Committee considers it highly worrying that, confronted with the serious problems facing the Portuguese people as a result of dozens of years of right-wing policies, once again the theories of sacrifices
and of austerity for the workers are being espoused, while scandalous announcements are made regarding profits totalling hundreds of millions of euros in 2004 for some economic groups, with obscene growth rates when compared with 2003.

As happened when Durão Barroso government took office, there are many signs indicating that we are about to have a second version of his "we are in dire straits" discourse, with the purpose of restraining the workers' demands and
their rightful aspirations for a change in policies, which were unequivocally displayed at the ballot box on February 20th.

The re-enactment of the "crisis" and "plight of the country" theories, which is once again being rehearsed, should be promptly exposed and opposed, because life continues to prove that neither the crisis, nor the sacrifices, are for everyone, and that the old neo-liberal prescriptions are not an answer to the problems of the economy or of the country.

The accumulation of wealth by finance capital is evident in
the net results of the banks and insurance companies (16% higher than last year and the preservation of scandalous benefits in the Company Income Tax); in the nearly 800 million euros of profit by the energy companies (EDP [electricity] and GALPenergia [oil]); in the 510 million euros of profit for PT [telecommunications] in 2004. This confirms the immorality of a system that promotes the brutal enrichment of a small number of people at the expense of the wage freeze, poverty, increased unemployment, the indebtedness of families, substantial cuts in the State's social functions and the lack of public investment.

The pressure of the bosses' associations to keep the Labour Code intact, with the argument that it is necessary to increase our economy's competitiveness; the insistence bymany analysts, in tune with the positions of the ruling party, on compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact as a solution for all the ills of our economy; the first statements by Ministers and the Prime Minister himself at the time of his swearing in, are all part of a campaign targeting the people, and in particular the workers, seeking to have them accept the crisis and, in its name, prepare them to accept more and new sacrifices.

The PCP demands immediate answers by the government to a set of problems that the workers and the communities face. Life has not come to a standstill and the offensive maintains its essential traits.

The attempts to destroy the national productive system continue, as well as the imposition of low wages, of flexibility in working hours and the destruction of thousands of jobs, under different excuses, as is the case of Bombardier, Opel, Triunfo Internacional, Yazaki and PT, among others. What is taking place at Bombardier, with the deployment of a police force to the company premises, is a very negative sign that can mark the beginning of this government's mandate. The PCP's Central Committee, while greeting the struggle of the workers, considers that it will be particularly serious if the presence of the police force is, as seems to be the case, used to give cover to the removal of the machinery, preventing the company from resuming its activity.

In the sector of textiles, garment and foot-wear, there is a serious situation, with sackings, closures and de-location of companies, as a result of market losses and the quest for cheap labour in Eastern Europe (and elsewhere), with an abrupt growth in unemployment and reduction of productive capital.

In education, besides the necessary responses to the rightful concerns of the entire educational community regarding the annual candidacies for teachers' placements, it is fundamental that the government quickly decide the annulment of the 9th grade national exams, whose students have already been highly hindered with a year full of problems, beginning with the delay in the placement of teachers - the whole blame for which rests on the Ministry of Education.

In health, decisive problems persist and worsen, such as access to primary health care, the price of medicines, payments of treatments (the so-called moderating tax), promiscuity between the public and private sectors.
Regarding these main concerns the Prime Minister has said nothing, merely announcing the end of the monopoly, by pharmacies, of the sales of medicines that do not require medical prescription. This decision was presented as a measure to oppose a powerful lobby - the pharmacies – when it is actually about supporting the interests of another, no less powerful, lobby, that of the big retailers.

The country faces the severe consequences of a prolonged drought, together with the occurrence of very low temperatures and frost, which have practically destroyed the farming year and brought great risks, in quantity and quality, to public water supplies.

The Central Committee, even considering the unpredictability of climate fluctuations, cannot refrain from vividly criticising the responsibility of successive governments' right-wing policies for the serious delays, the wrong guidelines and insufficient investments in a water policy (in all its aspects), and in the development of the Alqueva (dam) project.

The Central Committee demands the speedy materialization of a National Emergency Programme to face the existing problems, and preventive measures to solve any possible shortages in public water supplies and the further destruction of the productive potential of the farming and livestock sector.

3. The PCP's Central Committee considers it necessary to state and demand that the profound feelings expressed by the Portuguese people's votes on February 20th. warrants a real change in the country's policies.

A change that can respond to the blatant social inequalities and regional asymmetries and overcome the structural backwardness resulting from right-wing policies.

A change that can give an immediate and urgent answer to the pressing issues that the country and the Portuguese people face.

The situation of the country demands a policy that will give priority to productive activities, in particular marketable goods, and not to parasitic and speculative activities; that will put an end to privatisations; that will modernize the economy and improve its productive profile; that will support the small and medium sized companies and will not privilege the big economic groups.

The situation of the country and the workers demands that quick decisions be taken to halt the dismantling of the public sector, to prevent the closure of companies and unemployment, to unfreeze collective bargaining and increase wages and pensions, which factors in an economic revival.

It is not acceptable that Portugal should remain at the top of the list of countries with the highest social inequality, as a result of a global policy of concentration of wealth. It is not acceptable to continue demanding sacrifices from those who work the hardest, those who pay more taxes: the workers, pensioners, the middle social strata, the micro and small entrepreneurs.

The PCP Does Not, And Will Not Merely Denounce.

In a political, social and economic context of deep antagonism, and in coherence with the conclusions of the 17th Congress that were defended during the election campaign, the PCP reaffirms that both within and outside the Assembly of the Republic, it will pursue its action in defence of the workers' interests, of their economic and social rights, and of the Portuguese people's living standards.

Regarding legislative initiatives, it has already presented a group of draft-laws which, if adopted, will contribute to solve very serious problems affecting the country the repeal of the Labour Code, and in particular the norms on collective bargaining, the de-penalisation of the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy [abortion], the urgent replacement of the Stability Pact, the defence of the textile industry, an end to the policy of low wages, pensions and retirement pay, the need for a real improvement in our people's living standards.

The Central Committee cannot help noting, that the Left Block (BE) has had incoherent attitudes. Examples of this are the issues of abortion (where it has given cover to the PS proposal for a referendum, instead of demanding the approval of a de-penalisation law by Parliament), the Labour Code (where, instead of battling for its repeal, as a priority to unfreeze collective bargaining, it has adopted the PS position of creating a committee, thereby postponing its repeal), and the textile sector (where, contrary to what it defended during the electoral campaign, it has now dropped the call to use the safeguard clause).

The PCP will continue on the side of the workers in the struggle for their rightful demands and aspirations, for jobs with rights, for higher wages, for the dignification of labour.

The struggle for a real change in the country's situation, which the voters unequivocally expressed in the ballot box, gains increasing acuteness and importance as the anniversary celebrations of the 25th April and of May 1st draw near. These should constitute a high point in the committed mobilization and participation of the workers, their class organisations and of all democrats, in defence of the democratic regime and the heartfelt claims and aspirations of the Portuguese people.

The Central Committee also stresses, on the eve of the European Union Spring Summit, to be held on March 22 and 23, the need for the government to demand a review of the so-called Lisbon Strategy, along the lines of economic and social cohesion and giving priority to the fight against unemployment and poverty, opposing the directive proposals on labour organisation and working hours and the creation of a domestic service market. It also stresses the urgency of replacing the Stability Pact with a Pact for Employment and Growth.

4. PCP's Central Committee made a first assessment of the preparatory work for the Local Government elections during the period following the general elections and defined the main lines of work and guidelines to dynamise CDU, and assert it as a broad arena of unity, participation and involvement, where thousands of men and women - united by a distinctive project, with proven work and with a future - come together, cooperate and participate.

5. The Central Committee stresses the need to materialize the decisions to strengthen the Party, taken at the 17th Congress.

The 17th Congress called on each organisation and each Party member to step up their active participation and indicated to the Party collective the goal of an integrated set of measures that can ensure greater effectiveness and activity of the Party organisation, based upon its principles and aims as a Communist Party, and which, in the demanding present situation, can ensure that the Party withstands the offensive that is waged against it, has a greater and more influential activity, has the organisation, cohesion and conviction that are indispensable to move forward towards achieving its project for transformation.

The Central Committee, besides considering other stages in the materialization of the 17th Congress guidelines, indicates the following measures and priorities:

- complete the national initiative of contacts with Party members, seeking to clarify their situation, update information and addresses and increase the participation in
Party life; with this purpose, it decides to carry out two special actions of contact on a national level, in the fortnights from April 4 to 17 and May 2 to 15; each organisation must define its own program for this purpose;

- promote a vast initiative to give responsibilities to cadres at all levels, ensuring their training, creating and strengthening organisms, promoting rejuvenation;

- undertake leadership and cadre measures to strengthen the organisation and intervention of the Party in the companies and workplaces, with the creation and strengthening of regional structures, giving responsibilities to cadres in frontline companies, creating professional or company sectors, associating organisational and political activities and struggles;

- strengthen the restructuring, in particular the restructuring of the Party grassroots; to this effect, it is decided to carry out until the end of April, a national survey of the existing grassroots organisations and quickly proceed to integrate Party members within organisms (at the workplace or place of dwelling), to increase the number of those who have regular tasks, the generalisation of the types of contact and information, the holding of regular plenary meetings, the promotion of branch meetings, a greater initiative and activity of the organisations;

- undertake a recruitment campaign for 2.500 new members, until March 2006, the month in which the PCP celebrates its 85th anniversary, and striving to ensure their quick integration in Party life;

- strengthen the ideological work and the dynamisation of the Party press, in particular the circulation and reading of Avante! and O Militante, and the intensification of information and propaganda activity, ensuring a greater initiative and creative use of diversified means;

- carry out actions among different social strata and sectors on prioritary issues and areas, with relevance for actions among intellectuals and technical cadres, on issues of culture and for the work among the youth and of support to JCP;

- intensify measures to reach a financial balance, paying particular attention to collecting dues, contributions by those elected or appointed for public office, collecting contributions and regular promotion of public initiatives, monitoring and controlling expenses so as to make good use of the Party's material and financial resources, which are fundamental for its activity;

- associate organisational strengthening with political initiative and mass action, placing the problems of the workers and the populations at the core of the activity of organisations and militants;

- undertake broad-based political work, with the activity of Communists in working-class and community organisations and movements, adequately liaising institutional work with the mass struggle and Party action;

- define and implement measures of leadership and cadres that enable, within the existing cadre and financial possibilities, to quicken and enhance the effectiveness of the Party's activity, at the central level and at different leadership levels, and answer the requirements for activity in key areas and in the general action of the Party;

- intensify the international activity; pursuing bilateral relations and developing initiatives on a bilateral level will contribute to strengthen the anti-imperialist front and to recovery and re-launch the Communist and revolutionary movement;

The Central Committee stresses the need to materialize the guidelines defined in the 17th Congress to strengthen the Party's organisation, activity and influence. It is now necessary to consider and schedule the work, together with the general political action and the preparation of the local government elections, in all Party organisations and at the central level, with the commitment and initiative of the militants, benefiting from the dynamics of the 17th Congress and the stimulus of the campaign and election results of the February 20 general elections.

6. The Central Committee, in the context of the decisions now being taken, and in particular the task of strengthening the Party and preparing local government elections, indicates other lines of activity:

- dynamising the activity of the [Party] organisations and militants regarding the problems of the workers and the communities, of different anti-monopoly social sectors, the response to national problems, the promotion of struggles for demands, namely in unfreezing collective contracting and bargaining, enabling the safeguard of rights and guaranteeing an increase in wages, employment and assistance to the unemployed.

- intensify the Party's political initiative in the Assembly of the Republic, in materializing the pledges made to the workers and the Portuguese people, in the European Parliament, namely of opposition to the directives on the organisation of working hours, the domestic service market and the attempts to liberalize it, the triggering of the textile safeguard clause, the fight against the treaty on the so-called European constitution;

- undertake, in April, an initiative of information regarding the country's situation country and the PCP's proposals;

- continue the initiatives to commemorate the Party's 84th anniversary, while at the same time valorising the participation of thousands of militants and friends of the Party in the multiple events that have already been held, especially the rallies in Lisbon, Oporto and Grandola, as well the commemorations of International Women's Day;

- work to make of the commemorations of 25th April and May 1st, significant moments in asserting the values of freedom and the democratic-constitutional regime, in exposing the country's situation, in responding to the national problems, in demanding the materialization of the wish for change shown by the Portuguese people at the general elections;

- support actions of solidarity with the peoples in struggle, namely by stressing initiatives against the occupation of Iraq and imperialism's plans of aggression against other countries, that are taking place today (March 19th);

- promoting initiatives to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Victory over Nazi-Fascism (May 8/9), one of the 20th Century's outstanding events, promoting a reflection and debate on the international framework in which World War II broke out, valorising the action of the liberation forces, the resistance of the peoples, the role of the Communists and the decisive contribution of the USSR and the Red Army to free Europe and the world from the scourge of Nazi-fascism, combating the attempts to revise History and its exploitation by imperialism to justify its present aggressive strategy of global domination;

- step up the preparation of the 29th Avante! Festival on September 2, 3 and 4, so as to ensure its success.

PCP's Central Committee appeals to all Communists, all democrats, all men and women of the left, for a strong political activity, that will ensure the struggle to materialise a real change in national politics, in accordance with the aspirations and wishes expressed by the Portuguese people on February 20.

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