2.1. Right-wing policies and the country's situation
The counter-revolutionary process with decades of right-wing policies, capitalist integration in the European Economic Community/European Union (EEC/EU), monetary integration in the Euro, implementation of the Stability Pact, carried out by PS, PSD and CDS, has led to the degradation of the productive fabric, to the dramatic increase in the country's economic dependence, to its increasing indebtedness, jeopardising national sovereignty and independence.
As a result of this policy, with its class content at the service of monopolist and large landowner restoration and contrary to the national interest, with the growing dominance of foreign capital, the country became more dependent and vulnerable, more exposed to structural deficits, in the fields of technology, energy, demography, food.
These policies did not solve, rather worsened, the main national problems, revealing the nature and contradictions of capitalism and its structural crisis, which drove the country into a prolonged crisis, with increased exploitation of the workers, with a strong social setback, with impacts on political participation, cultural life, the environment and on the democratic regime itself.
This course was worsened by the Stability and Growth Programmes (SGP) and the Pact of Aggression, signed by PS, PSD and CDS with the European Commission, the ECB [European Central Bank] and the IMF, and by the action of the PSD/CDS government, which was curbed in the legislature that began in 2015, when, due to the workers' struggle and the decisive action of the PCP, wages and rights - key factors for economic and employment growth - were restored, defended and achieved.
This path that did not go further, due to the PS's option and commitments to keep Portugal subjected to the guidelines of imperialism and the European Union (EU) and tied to the interests of big capital, limiting and preventing the necessary response to problems. Breaking with the right-wing policy is inseparable from denouncing the PS’s policy options, as well as from the confrontation with the whitewashing strategy of the PSD and CDS and the reactionary offensive that seeks to find space for their anti-democratic projects.
2.2. The European Union
Portugal's integration within the EEC/EU – spearheaded by PS, PSD and CDS, in permanent conflict with the achievements of the April Revolution and the Portuguese Constitution – is an integral part of the process to restore monopoly capitalism and its structures of domination in Portuguese society.
Subjected to the constraints and impositions of the EU, and in particular of the Euro, Portugal has not overcome structural dependence, deficits, problems and inequalities, even in a less adverse reality such as that of recent years. Any policy of social justice, of raising wages, affirming rights, improving living conditions and asserting sovereignty, inevitably faces the constraints arising from the EU and the Euro.
The evolution of the EU is marked by growing inequalities and developmental asymmetries, by an accelerated concentration and centralization of capital, and by increased exploitation and social regression, which have once again been exposed by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The EU is a structure shaped by big capital’s interests and needs in the imperialist phase of capitalist development. It is directed and conceived as an instrument and area of domination of monopolies and transnational corporations, oriented towards the concentration of power in the main capitalist powers of Europe – particularly Germany – and in supranational institutions dominated by these powers and, at the same time, aligned with US imperialism.
In recent years, the process of capitalist integration has deepened, generating growing contradictions, tensions and rivalries. The deep crisis in, and of, the EU is in itself an expression of the structural crisis of capitalism. Its developments may reflect upon the future of the Euro Zone / Economic and Monetary Union and of the EU itself.
The UK's exit from the EU – despite attempts to reverse the expressed will of the British people and campaigns promoting the impossibility or chaos given the decision to dissociate from the EU – is a strong upset to the theories of irreversibility of capitalist integration in Europe. Inseparable from the contradictions and rivalries inherent to the capitalist nature of the EU, it is simultaneously a reflection of popular discontent with the EU.
The negotiations and successive impasses in the preparation of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 (MFF 2021-2027) reveal deep fractures and contradictions running through the EU, and demonstrate that capitalist competition in the single market prevails over any prospect of solidarity and cooperation between States that, in practice, has been confirmed as non-existent.
The so-called Recovery Fund – in a significantly reduced version compared to initial sums, particularly regarding the “subsidies” component – brings forward and reduces future revenues and increases the loan component, generating even more debt, which is particularly harmful for countries such as Portugal that are already deeply indebted.
The deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the Single Market and the increasing concentration and centralisation of Capital are leading to a growing concentration and centralisation of supranational political power with renewed attacks on democracy and sovereignty. Falsely invoking a fight against the far-right and «nationalisms» – but in reality targeting legitimate national feelings, interests and resistance to the class and national oppression associated with the EU – attempts are being made to institutionalize mechanisms of political and ideological control and interference and to impose a single mindset dictated by EU institutions.
The Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the Euro serve the goal of intensifying exploitation and economic dominance, intensify the diverging dynamics intrinsic to capitalist integration, accentuate the transfer of income from labour to capital, and fuel the levelling down of wages and working and living standards in Europe.
The «response» to the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic confirms that the EU is not an arena of cooperation and solidarity, nor is the Euro a «protective shield».
The reform of the EMU has made the Euro an even greater constraint and potentially more devastating for sovereign development projects. The Euro traps countries like Portugal, depriving them of sovereign economic and monetary policy instruments. Low interest rates or the liquidity provided by the ECB do not translate into more investment and a more dynamic domestic market. The ECB's debt purchase programmes, exclusively on the secondary market, with the intermediation of financial markets, do not prevent speculative attacks on sovereign debt or the squandering of national resources. The increase in public debt during the pandemic creates additional obstacles to State financing and public investment.
Once again, the EU's response to a new crisis is to further capitalist integration and its neoliberal, militarist and federalist pillars, in particular with new transfers of powers from the States to the EU institutions, dominated by the great powers.
The Fiscal Compact, Economic Governance, the European Semester, the multiple constraints on using structural and investment funds, the imposition of the Banking Union, the institution of the Capital Markets Union, and the consolidation and expansion of the single market, form a web of constraints, namely economic and budgetary constraints, that increasingly subjugate countries like Portugal, benefit the main capitalist powers, and reinforce big capital’s domination.
The process of EU interference in the sovereign powers of States continues. By imposing so-called «structural reforms», the EU tries to intervene directly on matters such as taxation, wages, labour legislation or social policies.
The Banking Union is confirmed as a powerful means to concentrate the banking sector, in particular the transfer of its ownership to European transnational monopoly financial groups. The centralisation of banking supervision and resolution at the ECB, removing this sovereign competence from the States, aims to safeguard the interests of finance capital. The Banking Union has institutionalised and centralised instruments whose main objective is to channel public funds to private banking and to concentrate this sector.
The «European Green Deal» seeks to exploit real problems and just environmental concerns in order to ensure new conditions for capitalist accumulation by transnational economic groups of the so-called «green economy», through environmental commodification; to open the door for new taxes on the peoples; and boost the liberalization of the European energy market.
The deepening and extension of the single market to new areas – digital, energy, aviation, transport and telecommunications – focusing on strategic sectors, namely the so-called «natural monopolies» and public services, is aimed at accelerating privatization and liberalization processes that favour monopoly concentration and target the sovereignty of countries such as Portugal.
The deepening of the process of capitalist integration is accompanied by vast operations of propaganda and whitewashing of the EU, by either window dressing or a false fight against the extreme right, associated with the promotion of anti-Communism and the whitewashing of fascism and its crimes, or by the insistence on the fallacious concepts of «European citizenship» or «European values».
«Free competition» in the domestic market, promptly disproven by the enormous disproportion in economic and investment capacity between States, destroys extractive sectors and especially manufacturing industry in countries with lower productivity, pushing them towards low wages and low-tech production, and contributes to block their development.
Successive reviews of the Common Agricultural Policy, in line with the interests of large agribusiness, have deepened liberalisation, with the destruction of almost all public instruments regulating the supply and protection of national production, accelerating the concentration of production, and attacking small and medium-sized agriculture. The reduction of the CAP budget, together with the conclusion of free trade agreements, would mean a further liquidation of large sectors of national production.
The Common Fisheries Policy, with its successive reforms aimed at liberalising and dismantling public regulatory instruments, is inseparable from the decline of the sector, the ageing and dismantlement of the fleet, the loss of jobs, the loss of income for fishermen and increasing restrictions on fishing.
The EU's trade policy, based on free and unregulated trade, aims to ensure that the major European powers and economic groups have new markets, with access to scarce raw materials, and expand their zones of influence. The free trade agreements with Canada (CETA) and Japan are particularly serious.
The deeply asymmetric impact on States of decades of EU common policies confirms the need to recover national sovereignty in areas such as industry, agriculture, fisheries or trade.
The EU asserts its nature as an imperialist military-political bloc. Despite circumstantial distancings and rivalries, particularly with the US, the militarization of the EU continues in conjunction with NATO, and it proclaims itself as NATO's European Pillar.
The Common Foreign and Security Policy and, in particular, the Common European Security and Defence Policy are dictated by the economic interests of the monopolies and great powers. Present in virtually all scenarios of destabilisation and military intervention, the EU strengthens its direct and indirect funding of military industry and research and maintains its project of creating a «European army».
The so-called «development aid» and association agreements are used in its economic and political expansion policy, with renewed focus on the EU's recolonizing offensive in Africa, its resources and markets.
Portugal's submission to the priorities and guidelines of the European Union's «foreign policy» is a serious obstacle to the necessary diversification of its international relations and a more intense cooperation – including economic cooperation between Portugal and other nations.
The European External Action Service tends to devalue, override and erase the diplomatic representation and action of some States, imposing a common orientation and the concept of a «single voice» in relations with third countries and in international forums.
EU policy in the context of migration and refugee movements, for example by criminally tolerating the loss of thousands of lives in the Mediterranean or by financing the erection of walls and barriers to prevent their entry into Europe - namely as a result of imperialism's actions - has deepened its exploitative, xenophobic and inhumane character, assimilating concepts and practices advocated by the far right.
The pillars on which the EU is based constitute an immovable political and ideological matrix. There is no room for a «refoundation» or «democratisation» that calls into question its class nature and direction.
The most recent evolution of the situation in the EU belies the thesis of the irrelevance and relative decline of the nation-state and the role of national sovereignty, as well as confirms the class nature of the State and the role of EU supranational institutions as instruments at the service of monopoly groups and great powers.
For Portugal, and for a wide array of countries, real solutions to problems can only be sought by affirming national sovereignty and rejecting the constraints imposed by the European Union.
PCP advocates the construction of a Europe of cooperation between sovereign States and equal in rights, of social progress and peace. A true project of cooperation for Europe requires democratic and progressive breaks at the national level and with impact at the European level, that allow the construction of a new political and institutional framework of cooperation between States for effective social and economic development, peace, friendship and solidarity, paving the way for a Europe of the workers and peoples.
Such an aim requires the defeat of the process of capitalist integration by developing the struggle of the workers and peoples, increasing their political consciousness regarding the neo-liberal, federalist and militaristic nature of the European Union; by asserting a State's sovereign right to development and rejecting EU impositions; by changing the political and institutional balance of forces in EU States and their co-operation in rejecting that structure's impositions and directives; and through cooperation between progressive and left-wing forces, particularly Communists, based on breaking with the European process of capitalist integration.
PCP has deep confidence in the struggle of workers and peoples and reaffirms the inalienable right of the Portuguese people to decide their own destiny and their right to sovereign development. A right that no integration, however advanced its state of development, can expropriate.
Breaking with the impositions and constraints of the European Union and the struggle to defend national sovereignty and independence are central elements to build, in Portugal, a patriotic and left-wing political alternative.
2.3. The economic, social, cultural and political situation
Portugal is a country facing serious economic and social problems and with large structural deficits that are the source of strong foreign dependence. Cut off from important - such as monetary - instruments of sovereignty, the country faces a public debt that consumes a not insignificant part of its resources. Most strategic companies and sectors are now dominated by foreign big capital. This situation coexists with low wages, retirement benefits and pensions, in a context of worsening exploitation and the impoverishment of vast strata of workers, with growing precariousness in labour relations and persistently high levels of unemployment.
In this reality, profound social injustices grow and the profits and privileges of a few contrast with deepening social inequalities. The scale of poverty is on the rise due to the worsening social situation resulting from the epidemic. Problems of enormous social sensitivity emerge and become more acute, namely in access to housing, daycare centres or the needs of the elderly and people with disabilities.
Portugal continues to register a low birth rate that does not ensure the replacement of generations, a situation that results in particular from the economic and social problems that affect and penalise mainly workers and their families, preventing their free decision regarding the time and number of children they want to have.
Public services, lacking thousands of workers, have been weakened.
Public investment is clearly insufficient to replace wear and tear on equipment and infrastructure or to solve decades-old problems, as was highlighted by the dramatic [forest] fires of 2017 and 2018.
The reality is that means are denied to guarantee the rights of the workers and people, but benefits and privileges are guaranteed to big capital, namely through support to private banking, Public Private Partnerships, massive tax benefits or other direct support.
In the economic field, there continues to be an insufficient pace of growth and weakness of the productive apparatus, as a result of joining the Euro and of EU impositions, of capital transfers and flight, and of an ever greater domination of the economy by foreign capital, financialization and lack of public and productive investment.
The country's strong dependence and structural weakness leave the national economy more exposed to the high degree of uncertainty in the external economic environment.
Great territorial imbalances persist, and we witness environmental degradation and an increasing commodification of Nature and water.
Ideologically, we stress the brutal onslaught carried out by big capital, which includes the concentration of media ownership, the promotion of reactionary values and ideas, the re-writing and falsification of history, of fascism and of the 25th of April.
Other important features of the Portuguese reality are the cultural losses, namely of the Portuguese language, and displays of cultural elitism, with the growing difficulties that cultural agents must face; the degradation and subversion of the democratic regime enshrined in the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic and the attempt to destroy the social functions and the State apparatus that should support them; the persistance of high levels of corruption and the plunder of public assets, with an intense promiscuity between the public and private sectors; the growing subordination of political power to economic power and of democracy and national sovereignty to the decisions and impositions of the European Union; and a foreign and defence policy marked by a position of yielding and submitting to the US and NATO.
This reality is the direct result of the right-wing policy, promoted by PS, PSD and CDS, together or separately, at the service of the class interests of the big domestic capital, in association with, or dependent and submitted to, foreign capital.
The Covid-19 epidemic has made this reality even more blatant, exacerbated by the ideological operation that big capital has unleashed aimed at squashing wages and rights, transforming labour relations into an authentic law of the jungle, transferring to the workers and the public exchequer the burden of this situation, trying to limit protests and the struggle.
The country's economic and social situation has deteriorated brutally in the final months of 2020. The impacts of the epidemic, its manipulation by big capital and the lack of a necessary response by the PS government, associated with the country's structural weaknesses, converge in a scenario of a sharp drop in GDP, a significant worsening of the public debt, a deteriorating social situation with increased exploitation and poverty, greater foreign dependence and further concentration and centralization of capital.
This situation has resulted in tens of thousands of dismissals, wage cuts for hundreds of thousands of workers or even the loss of livelihoods for thousands of others, many of them self-employed or in an informal situation, the arbitrary imposition of working times and worse working conditions, the destruction of the activity of thousands of micro, small and medium-sized companies and the bankruptcy of small producers.
2.4. The new phase of national political life
The four years - 2015 to 2019 - which corresponded to the “new phase of national political life” were not in vain, both in their relation to the previous legislature and to the four previous decades of an unchanged trajectory of right-wing policies. During this period, dogmas (such as the thesis that the only possible policy would be that of impoverishment and ever-greater exploitation) crumbled; theses and arguments repeatedly underlined by the PCP (namely regarding the purpose of legislative elections which elect MPs and not Prime Ministers) were confirmed; lessons were learnt that have become part of the legacy of struggle and intervention.
The path of defending, restoring and winning new rights that marked the new phase of national political life was only made possible by the PCP’s initiative and decisive intervention, after the political and electoral defeat of the PSD/CDS government and the political and institutional outcome of the 2015 elections, with a view to stopping its destructive action and opening up new prospects. This situation did not mean the formation of a left-wing government, but rather the coming into office of a minority PS government, with its own programme. It did not mean the existence of a left-wing majority in the Assembly of the Republic [Parliament], but the existence of a balance of forces in which PSD and CDS-PP were in the minority, and in which, at the same time, the parliamentary groups of the PCP and PEV (The Ecologist Party “The Greens”) conditioned decisions and were decisive and indispensable to defend, restore and achieve rights and incomes. The PCP was not a force supporting the government with a parliamentary agreement that never existed, but rather, having contributed to ensure that the government came into office, the PCP preserved full political freedom and independence, guiding its action according to the interests of the workers and people.
This period confirmed the PCP’s decisive intervention, proposals and solutions, its determination to not squander any opportunity to defend, restore and conquer rights. This period highlighted the irreplaceable role of the workers’ and people’s struggle which, however difficult and prolonged it may be - as was that which took place between 2011 and 2015 - eventually dictates the course of events. This period revealed that, contrary to what was in store, improving living conditions, extending rights, raising wages and pensions, increasing household disposable income, are all conditions for economic growth and wealth and job creation.
This period also showed that - as the PCP always said - despite the importance of responding to more urgent problems, the solutions and policy that the country needs, to overcome its structural deficits and ensure sovereign development, cannot be found with the shackles of the class options of the PS and its government.
The assessment of this period of political life requires that its complexity and contradictions be taken into account. First and foremost, in order to draw lessons and experience from it, for future intervention and struggle, rejecting both the simplifications and distortions regarding what it represented, its scope and meaning, its limitations and shortcomings.
The assessment of this phase of the national political life begins with the conjuncture in which it emerged; with the assumed recognition of its limitations, dispelling illusions regarding what it could represent. Wrong assessments were made, from two different angles: one which, due to the overassessment of what was achieved, viewed it as the answer to the country’s problems and as a political and institutional solution at the expense of asserting an alternative policy; and one which, underestimating conditions that made some advances possible, denied any response other than an immediate break, totally disparaging the regression that was prevented and what was achieved in the defence, restoration and achievement of rights and the improvement of living standards.
This phase of the national political life cannot be measured solely by its advances and achievements, but also by what was interrupted and prevented, both in terms of previously announced measures attacking rights, expropriating wages and income or alienating strategic companies and sectors, and in terms of projects of political, electoral and Constitutional subversion long sought by the protagonists of right-wing policies. During this period, steps were taken, with the intervention of the PCP and the workers' struggle, to defend, restore and achieve rights. Worth mentioning are, among others: the restoration of wages and other stolen rights, such as holidays, pension supplements for workers in the State Entrepreneurial Sector; the increase in the national minimum wage, even if short of what is necessary; the restoration of collective bargaining instruments in the Public Entrepreneurial Sector and the elimination of restrictions on hiring workers in Local Administration; the reversal of the privatisations of Carris [Lisbon bus company], Metropolitano de Lisboa [Lisbon Underground] and STCP [Porto transport company] and, even if only partially, of [the national airliner] TAP; the significant reduction in the price of public transport and the expansion of multi-transport social passes; the reversal of cuts in pensions and their extra increase during four consecutive years (the last of which is now in the 2020 State Budget); the full restoration of the law on the voluntary termination of pregnancy; the increase in child benefits, the extension of pre-natal care benefits and support for people with disabilities; expanding protection for the unemployed, creating support for the long-term unemployed and eliminating the cut in unemployment benefits; restoring the right to the full payment of the Christmas allowance; the valorisation of long careers with discounts and the improvement of conditions for access to pensions of mines and quarry workers; in Public Administration, the restoration and extension of the 35-hour working week and the right to career advancement, with the respective pay, as well as measures to fight precariousness; a reduction in tuition fees and strengthening the components of Educational Social Action; free textbooks during the 12 years of compulsory education; the reduction of healthcare user fees, the hiring of more doctors and nurses, the reduction of costs with medicines, the inclusion of new vaccines in the National Vaccination Plan; free access to museums, on Sundays and holidays, and the resumption of programmes to value them; more support for the arts and artistic creation, the reduction of VAT on shows and musical instruments; the creation, in the Peniche Fortress [former political prison], of the National Museum of Resistance and Freedom; the mitigation of the Income Tax on income from labour, namely for the lowest and middle incomes, with the reduction of rates and the creation of two new income brackets and the extension of the minimum subsistence [bracket], as well as the elimination of the surcharge; the reduction in the price of energy; the reduction of VAT on catering and the elimination of the Special Pre-payment [of taxes] by the self-employed; the re-institutionalization of Casa do Douro [wine cooperative]; the replacement of Common Land rights; the guarantee of support for family farming, the reduction of fuel costs for farmers and fishermen; the cut in benefits for real estate funds, the taxation of higher value real estate assets with the introduction of the Real Estate Municipal Tax (IMI) surcharge and the increase in taxation on large profits through the increase in the Corporate Tax.
It is true that more was not achieved because the PS continued to be bound to class options that limited the scope and extent of the response that would be required. In several matters, the PS not only rejected proposals that would solve important problems as it sought - whether by non-compliance, by the retention of funds that had been earmarked, by cuts in investments and others devices - to delay implementing measures and to ensure that the budgetary criteria determined by its submission to the impositions of the European Union prevailed. Despite the shortcomings and contradictions of several State budgets, the government not only did not take advantage of the possibilities that they contained, but disrespected and did not fulfil the positive aspects that integrated them. It was because the PS so chose, that policies that have been present in decades of right-wing policy were maintained, such as the negative labour legislation (which was even worsened at the end of the legislature) and the non-recovery by the State of strategic sectors and companies.
What was achieved, although limited in scope, had concrete significance for the lives of the Portuguese people. Pitting the interests of the PCP against those of the workers and the people, separating what is inseparable, betting on the idea that extreme hardship and an unbearable degradation of the living standards of the masses would foment revolutionary awareness, can only lead, not to further mobilization and struggles, but rather to giving up, to opportunism and radicalisation.
The struggle of the workers and the people and the PCP’s activity managed to defeat and remove the PSD/CDS government from office, prevent the materialisation of their projects and achieve real advances in defending, restoring and achieving rights.
Valuing what was achieved - even if limited - with the PCP’s intervention and the workers' struggle, after years of intense struggle in which the immediate perception of its results was not visible, is of particular importance. Despite the government’s attempts to appropriate the positive measures which it not only did not defend, but even opposed for as long as it could, [what was achieved] is of particular importance in raising the awareness that the struggle is decisive, that fighting is worthwhile, revealing once again that nothing is handed out and everything must be won, that the mass struggle and the Party’s intervention, with adequate guidelines, determination and persistence, makes possible what many think is impossible.
The period of national political life between 2015 and 2019 therefore has to be assessed by what it actually represented and not by what some would like it to be. Mystifications sought to establish and encourage a false perception, either to whitewash the PS’s policy and action and its class nature, or to see in a conjunctural balance of forces, a structural basis that has never existed at all.
2.5. The action of the PS government
The period that elapsed since the 20th Congress witnessed two legislatures [Parliaments] that, despite having in common the existence of minority PS governments, have, in the current legislature a significant difference resulting from the changed balance of forces in the Assembly of the Republic after the 2019 elections. The PS has since then been freer to give unconditional expression to its right-wing policy options.
In both situations, the PS was true to the options that characterise it. It was the balance of forces that emerged from the 2015 elections that conditioned those options and the priorities that mark its commitment to right-wing policies, and enabled the path of defending, restoring and achieving rights that characterised the first of those legislatures.
What changed was not the PS and its class nature, but the circumstances. In fact, as was evident and the PCP always warned, the PS did not drop key right-wing policy options that, having been present in its governance and in the structural limitations that shaped it, namely in the State Budget proposals, blocked the necessary response to national problems.
The commitment to cut the deficit and an unsustainable public debt prevented the mobilization of resources for a truly sovereign development. The country did not invest, did not bolster public services, did not boost production or recover productive capacity.
The PS government maintained its class commitments to monopoly capital, ensuring conditions, through its labour legislation, to heighten exploitation, for precarious employment relations and to deregulate working hours. During this period, it kept the interests associated with PPPs untouched. It did not revert to State control strategic companies like CTT [postal services]. It gave in to the interests of multinationals like Vinci, depriving the country of the airport infrastructure it needs. It continued to hand billions of euros to banks, as the scandalous case of Novo Banco reveals.
The scale of the country’s problems, enhanced and highlighted by the current situation, requires a policy that breaks with the right-wing policy that for decades has created and accumulated those problems. The acuity, extent and severity of the economic and social problems that broke out, in connection with the epidemic, continues to require urgent measures and solutions that provide more immediate answers to problems that the workers and the people face.
But, above all, what the country’s situation requires is to pave the way for a different policy, ensuring conditions for its sovereign development, vigorously increasing public investment, overcoming the main structural deficits, valuing workers’ wages and rights, raising the living standards of the people.
The necessary response to national problems is not compatible with the options that have been expressed in the different Programmes and Plans presented by the government, which are essentially dependent on EU options and EU funds. The vision and options that they portray do not include the necessary valorisation of the workers, their wages and rights. They preserve all neoliberal instruments. They completely ignore the constraints imposed by the absence of monetary sovereignty and by a public debt that consumes much needed public resources. They view the State as a facilitator and funder of economic groups. They ignore the domination of strategic companies and sectors by foreign capital.
The country's development requires sovereign options, which are not dependent on the criteria and decisions of third parties. It needs its own agenda that views national problems without restrictions or constraints, namely in the use of EU funds.
It is to be expected that this conditioning associated with EU decisions will endure, namely those related to European funds, preventing them from being placed at the service of the workers and the people and the development of the country and integrated into a strategy of sovereign development.
The country is faced with a scale of economic and social problems that requires choices as to how to solve them. Projects are emerging that aim not to respond to the problems but rather, taking advantage of the current situation and using it as a pretext, seek to create the conditions to intensify exploitation and injustice.
The path that the PS and its government are building with the PSD, and which includes the President of the Republic, had in the 2020 Supplementary Budget, in the adoption of the new rules of the Assembly of the Republic or in the amendments to the Budget Framework Law, the confirmation that what prevails is a convergence between these two parties on key issues.
The process of realignment of forces that the most reactionary sectors promote to fully recover the conditions for the development of the right-wing policy requires denouncing the options of the PS and its government and combating and confronting the reactionary projects that PSD and CDS, and their political surrogates - Iniciativa Liberal and Chega- have underway. And it demands, at the same time, a clear path of breaking with the right-wing policy and asserting and materialising an alternative, patriotic and left-wing policy, indispensable for economic development and social progress.
2.6. The economic situation
Economic growth between 2016 and 2019 not only did not overcome problems that had accumulated over decades of right-wing policies and capitalist integration, as it did not prepare the country to confront a new upheaval.
The causes of the cyclical crisis unleashed in 2007-2008 remain, and the tensions and contradictions arising from the structural crisis of capitalism have even intensified.
The Covid-19 epidemic has only exposed and highlighted the Portuguese economy’s problems and bottlenecks, its deficits and structural dependence.
These are the features that mark Portugal’s economic reality: high indebtedness and external deficits; high level of public and foreign debt; low levels of public and private investment, short of what is needed to preserve infrastructure and equipment; persistently large deficits in production, energy, technology, capital and an increasing demographic deficit; weakness of the economic fabric, with low productivity, growing domination by monopoly and foreign capital, the decapitalisation of companies; the destruction and huge syphoning abroad of capital; the loss of national control of strategic sectors, areas and companies; structurally high unemployment, wage devaluation and precarious employment relationships, the drain of qualified labour that goes abroad; restrictions on access to essential public services; territorial imbalances and regional disorganisation and disarray; environmental degradation and increasing commodification of nature and water; the degradation of the State apparatus; corruption and the plunder of public assets, public-private promiscuity, the subordination of political power to economic power and of democracy and national sovereignty to the decisions and impositions of the European Union and the great powers.
The Euro, which is an instrument at the service of the great powers and of the concentration and centralisation of capital, has meant divestment and productive degradation, loss of competitiveness and external indebtedness, stagnation and recession, social and economic divergence.
Portugal needs a currency suited to its economic potential, wages, productivity and productive profile. It needs autonomous and sovereign monetary, financial, exchange rate and budgetary management to foster production, employment and growth. It needs to have a true national central bank to support its development project, freeing itself from the blackmail of financial markets for its funding and the political conditionality of EU and IMF loans. Public and external debts, their sizes and the cost of their service, have absorbed national resources and limited the country's economic growth. Both these debts resulted from the degradation of the productive apparatus and national production and from the resulting trade deficits; from submission to the European Union and the Euro and the great powers, aligned with the interests of big capital; from a drop in revenue and increased spending due to economic recession and stagnation; from bank and company bailouts; from financial speculation and capital flight.
In recent years, until the outbreak of the epidemic, public and external debt declined in relation to the GDP. Interest rates decreased. The public debt held by the Banco de Portugal increased, as did the refund to the State, in the form of dividends and taxes, as part of the payment it makes for interest on that debt. Due to the significant resources they consume, due to the strategic dependence and risks they hold, these debts make the country vulnerable. The renegotiation of public debt and the reduction of external debt (linked to the increase in national production) remain a requirement.
The right-wing policy consolidated structural productive, energy, technological and capital deficits, leading to the explosion of a serious demographic deficit in the first two decades of the 21st century.
The productive deficit, which encompasses a foodstuffs deficit, is the direct consequence of depreciating the productive sectors - agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing industry - and national resources.
The energy deficit continues to weigh heavily on the trade balance. The growth in the use of endogenous resources (water, wind, solar, geothermal) reduced the import of electricity, but, driven by the interests of private capital, it has not allowed a drop in the deficit and energy costs.
There remains a deficit in Research and Development (R&D) and its incorporation into national production due to low levels of public and especially private investment.
The country has a high capital deficit as a result of feeble economic growth, capital flight, the policy of high dividends and tax avoidance and evasion.
And the most emerging and crucial of the deficits that the country faces: its demographic sustainability, grappling with a low birth rate - inseparable, among others, from low wages, precarious jobs and unemployment - enhanced by the continued massive emigration of young people, including a highly qualified workforce.
The Portuguese non-financial business fabric consists of around 600 thousand companies, the overwhelming majority of which (98%) are micro-companies with ten or less workers and small companies, and the rest (less than 2%) are medium-sized (up to 250 workers) and large companies. Only 0.6% of companies have more than 250 workers. Despite the Bureau of Statistics (INE) registering about one million and 300 thousand companies (1,278,164 in 2018), over 600 thousand of these companies are actually self-employed workers (sole proprietorship companies).
We thus have two business worlds with different legal statutes, capitalization and objectives: one that includes micro and some small companies - about 50% sole proprietorship companies and a few commercial companies - whose main purpose is to maintain the jobs they sustain and which are marked by great economic and financial weakness and by an activity tragetting the domestic market; and another that consists of medium, large (about 9000) and some small companies, where big capital and the strategic domination of key activities, namely export-oriented ones, is concentrated and centralised.
Nationally-owned companies are characterised, overall and albeit with exceptions, by poor quality management and little propensity for investment, which are essential (although not exclusive variables) to improve productivity and increase competitiveness. Private and national investment is low and largely dependent on public resources, namely EU funds. Capital is responsible for low national productivity as it prefers to distribute dividends rather than investing, even when indebted, and to gain competitiveness by means of low wages.
The organisation of big capital (national and foreign) in economic groups - with companies of multiple dimensions and sectors of activity, of a monopolistic/oligopolistic nature in strategic sectors and areas - marks the national reality, with consequences in the high cost of essential goods and services and in the predation of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
The presence of foreign capital, which dominates over 50% of the large companies, goes far beyond direct ownership, namely with the integration of many of them in the value chains of transnational companies; subcontracting; the presence of investment funds such as BlackRock (the largest global financial group with positions in six of the major PSI-20 [stock exchange index] companies); the activity of new transnational corporations, namely the “Big Technology Companies” that cross and intervene transversely in the entire productive and service fabric and have enormous political, ideological and economic influence, behave as enormous “gobblers” of wealth, on the fringes of any State or fiscal regulation or supervision.
The State, after the practical liquidation of part of its Entrepreneurial Sector (SEE), detains about 150 companies, with a residual presence in the productive sphere.
Since 2015, the SEE has remained reasonably stable, with the exception of the alienation to foreign companies in the area of defence, while at the same time transferring Carris and STCP to the municipalities. This fact does not conceal the alienation projects that are clear in the investment policies of which CP [railway company] is an example, in refusing to assume public management even when it is the majority shareholder (INAPA), in the non-reversion of the privatisation of CP-Cargo and in the refusal to nationalise - despite large injections of public money - companies such as Novo Banco or CTT, as well as other situations such as Efacec, where the logic of favouring the interests of big capital is evident.
The cooperative sector has, from an economic point of view, a significant presence in agricultural activity, but also in other sectors and activities such as consumption, housing and transport, including financial - case of Caixa de Crédito Agrícola Mútuo and Mútua dos Pescadores. Subject to the predation of monopoly capital, namely of large distribution companies, and without a policy that defends its role within the framework of the Constitution, the cooperative movement faces serious difficulties.
The country has six strong chains of external dependence, which mutually feed each other, creating a veritable economic and political colonisation, jeopardising national sovereignty and independence: integration within the EMU and its system of impositions and norms; the large External Debt and the corresponding and unsustainable Public Debt; the absence of a true Central Bank; the determining bloc of the business structure led by foreign capital and financial capital; the private commercial banking system - the exception being CGD - dominated by Spanish capital; and a set of structural deficits - productive, energy, technological, capital and demographic. The removal of these six main, deeply interconnected, constraints is an urgent goal to respond to the needs of the people and the country.
The ongoing reconfiguration of the banking system in Portugal, with the absorption of smaller banks and the centralisation of commercial banking operations in a small group of banks, is part of the banking concentration movement at EU level, that is, the Banking Union process. Thus, BANIF, BIC and majority positions in BCP/Millennium and BPI were taken over by Spanish banks (Santander and La Caixa). And Novo Banco (ex-BES) is also being prepared to be incorporated into a megabank, while Banco Montepio is facing problems.
The entirely public nature of Caixa Geral de Depósitos has prevented the total domination of foreign capital in Portuguese banking. This role would be even more relevant, were it not for the guidelines that governments and its management boards have promoted, aligning with private banking practices and EU impositions in the recapitalization process aiming to reduce its role and weight in the financial sector.
Since 2008, private banking has generated billions of euros of profits and dividends for its shareholders, but also large «losses», which have been largely covered by public resources (over 20 billion euros). The financial sector exerts constant pressure on the national economy. It extracts value from it, consolidates large economic groups, eliminates micro, small and medium-sized companies by managing access to credit, plays a fundamental role in tax evasion and money laundering, with Banco de Portugal - turned into an ECB [European Central Bank] branch – and foreign auditors legitimizing such practices.
The country's sovereignty over its financial system is at stake with the concentration of banks and other financial agents in the hands of foreign capital, reducing the ability to inspect and regulate financial institutions.
In the case of insurance companies, there has been a transfer to large international groups of the share capital of large national companies in the last decade, as was the case of Fidelidade, CGD Group, and Tranquilidade, Grupo Novo Banco, COSEC (which plays an important role in the foreign trade). This situation will worsen with the ongoing process of concentration.
The weakness of the national productive apparatus forces the country to depend from abroad, not only to satisfy basic needs but also to produce what it exports. The import coverage rate for exports of goods is less than 80%. The accumulated high external debt reflects this. The dependence from abroad has increased in the context of capitalist globalisation and the impositions of the EU. National production is not only insufficient but is increasingly dependent (almost 50%) on the external supply of goods and services. National production remains the central issue for the country's development, in the fight against the productive deficit and external debt, for employment and the rebalancing of the location of economic activity in the territory.
National agriculture continues to be marked by the impact of the [EU’s] Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and submission to its impositions, as well as by domestic choices favouring a so-called competitive agriculture, with disregard for small and medium-sized agriculture which should constitute an important support for domestic supply and indispensable reduction of the food deficit. The right-wing policy has undermined and adulterated land use, including its social function.
The following aspects are especially negative: the growth of areas of the big agribusiness, namely by resorting to super-intensive production (fruits, olives, horticulture and floriculture) with serious consequences for the territory and in the exploitation of, mainly immigrant, labour and which cannot conceal serious difficulties in essential areas such as dairy production, where dozens of farms continue to close, or threats to wine production; low production prices and the lack of product outlets, the progressive liberalisation of planting rights, the lack of regulation of the Family Farming Statute, preventing greater assistance; and the large-scale and serious forest fires that exposed the consequences of the right-wing policy in the Portuguese forest and in the rural world, which has been neglected by the abandonment and the dynamics of a supposed market controlled by economic groups that promote forestry monoculture and prevent the active management of the forest by its small and medium-size owners.
The positive changes forced by the PCP after 2015, whether with the re-institutionalization of Casa do Douro or with the amendments to the Law on Common Land, clash with a PS government committed to land concentration and large agribusiness.
The course of dismantling the Ministry of Agriculture looms large, with the transfer of forests to the Ministry of Environment and by depriving it of responsibility for animal protection. The absence of a national strategy for food sovereignty continues to create crises in several sectors and keeps the country wholly dependent from abroad, particularly as regards cereals. In addition, there is a gradual detachment from the monitoring and management of irrigation perimeters, built with public resources and which today are mostly under the control of capital, namely foreign capital. The absence of response to the problems of forest management and planning continues, as confirmed by the scale and frequency of forest fires. The brutal scale and consequences of the [forest] fires of June and October 2017, as well as those of the summer of 2018, revealed structural weakness in fire-fighting and prevention, a situation which the announcement of dozens of measures has not, so far, changed.
An important part of the national resources and potential in the geological, energy, transport, tourism, fishing spheres lies in the sea. Portugal has the largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the EU. Despite the constant propaganda regarding the potential of the "Blue Economy", there are major risks of alienation and privatisation of these resources, as is evident in the legislation on maritime spatial planning.
Fisheries, with its structural bottlenecks, faces decline, with the destruction of fishing communities, the decommissioning of the fishing fleet, the threat to the survival of pursue-seine fishing due to the management of sardines and other species associated with this [fishing] method. High operating costs remain, despite subsidizing fuel. Serious conditions of commercialization (first sale) remain. Difficult working conditions and low wages prevent the rejuvenation and increase in the number of fishermen.
The manufacturing industry, whose weight in GDP (14%) has languished for more than a decade, shows serious structural weakness due to the non-recovery of important basic and strategic sectors, and the absence of industrial sectors that could add value to natural resources. The growth in Gross Value Added - GVA (0.6% yearly average between 2009/2019) results from the insertion of industrial segments in international value chains and the dominant presence of foreign capital. The loss of decision-making centres and skills continues (as in the case of Cimpor [cement]) or even the closure of important plants. There is no progress in domestic production of investment goods and lasting consumer goods.
The country's industrial fabric, despite some positive developments (productivity and specialisation profile), maintains great strategic instability and external vulnerability.
In the mining industry, concessions of basic metals reserves to foreign capital continue, as do their non-valorisation in the country, together with a new rush of foreign companies and Investment Funds for mining concessions of metals or minerals, as is the case of lithium. The mining activity of industrial and ornamental rocks shows some slowdown.
Whether in terms of investment and public works or in terms of residential buildings, the building sector has not yet recovered from the impact of the 2007-2008 crisis.
Largely determined by real estate financial speculation (with haphazard and extensive occupation of the territory) and the options of public investment, the building sector - characterised by the weakness of the vast majority of business structures, by subcontracting and a precarious and highly immigrant labour force - is subject to strong competition from Spanish companies.
The trade and distribution sector saw the weight of large-scale distribution and large electronic trade platforms increase in the field of wholesale and retail markets. Large-scale Distribution, after the slowdown during the crisis triggered in 2007-2008, took a new leap with the opening of 60 new stores in 2019, and the entry of a new large group (Mercadona) in the country, simultaneously preserving the model of large and medium-sized stores and the location in shopping malls, has absorbed small local shops, enhancing its role of capitalist predation and accumulation.
Despite various legislative and regulatory initiatives, the margins appropriated by the large chains remained, through their predatory mechanisms (own-label brands, transfer of advertising costs, squashing production prices due to abuse of dominant position), and verticalization, descending in the value chain of production processes, namely in the agri-food sector.
Favourable external factors and the country's conditions have allowed for a significant growth in tourism in recent years. In 2018 Tourism Consumption contributed 11.3% to Gross Domestic Product and 9% of employment.
With the epidemic, the tourist flow from abroad, which represents close to 70% of the total, has been drastically reduced, as has activity. Thousands of workers and micro and small companies see their jobs and activity at risk, also as a consequence of the great dependence on a poorly diversified foreign market.
The growth in outsourcing of services by companies and sectors and refined formulas to exploit the labour force (companies renting labour force), internationalization and insertion in the value chains of multinationals and even the growing complexity of economic activity (as in the case of financial services) gave rise to many companies of administrative, accounting, legal, cleaning, security, and new services: IT, consulting and auditing, technical and scientific support, health and hygiene at work. This process, which started in many cases with cleaning and security services, tends to evolve into the core activities of companies. In two decades, its activity has seen its weight in GDP (7.8% in 2018) grow by more than a third.
On the one hand, there are labour-intensive companies, with thousands of workers (man-power, call centres, and others) subject to brutal exploitation and precariousness, and, on the other hand, companies made up of a small number of highly skilled and qualified workers. The ongoing extension of this process to public administration generates companies that play a crucial role in relations with the State (in particular large law firms and consulting companies), intervening in legislative processes, financial activities, EU funds, tax benefits, the functioning of arbitration courts, regulation and supervisory activities. These become key agents in subordinating political power to economic power.
The energy deficit, the dominance of the sector by foreign monopoly groups, the high energy costs for consumers and companies, the instrumentalization of environmental problems, mark the situation in the energy sector, as a direct result of the process of liberalisation and privatisation in this sector.
The country continues to be confronted with the absence of energy planning - in multiple dimensions, namely in transport policy, reductions in consumption - and the failure to implement programmes for energy efficiency; the segmentation and handing over of important assets to foreign groups, the inadequate development of renewable energy - a fundamental instrument for reducing external dependence - because it is carried out according to the interests of, and in promiscuity with, monopoly capital; the continued production of biofuel from dedicated agricultural production and insufficient re-use of domestic and industrial waste; Stock Exchange speculation with carbon emissions; delays in the rational use of forest biomass; external financial and technological dependence.
Despite positive aspects - halting and even lowering prices and tariffs on electricity, natural gas and petroleum products between 2015 and 2019 - pricing policies maintained oligopolistic, speculative and rentierist aspects, imposing, with the collusion of “independent” regulators, the highest energy prices in the EU.
Under the cloak of sustainability and climate urgency, the PS government's policy, in compliance with EU impositions, is characterised by erratic decisions (such as bringing forward the closure of coal plants or the sudden announcement of major investments in hydrogen), large-scale promotion of subsidised and/or tax-incentivised production. At the same time, so-called excessive rents for the benefit of monopoly groups remain, at the expense of the high price of energy paid by consumers.
As in other aspects, the processes of harnessing endogenous resources, including renewable ones, and technological transition, need to be freed from the interests of big capital and redirected towards satisfying the needs of the country, with the objective of energy sovereignty focused on harnessing national energy resources.
Transport policy remains essentially determined by the interests of the economic groups that dominate the sector. There continues to be a lack of a structural and strategic policy of replacing individual transport with public transport, reinforcing population mobility and territorial cohesion.
The importance of having reduced public transportation prices should be stressed, as it further highlighted the need to reinforce the offer in all modes of transport as well as the reconstitution of a national public operator for road transport.
In the meantime, right-wing policy commitments and orientations persist: investments that are repeatedly announced but not made, either in infrastructure or in material; the application of the Public Passenger Transport Service Legal Regime with the transfer of new responsibilities to municipalities. It was possible to integrate EMEF [rail equipment maintenance company] into CP [national railways], but not the railway infrastructure and freight transport. Over CP hangs the threat of liberalisation, ever-present in EU directives.
At TAP [national air carrier], we see the consequences of the private management that would have sunk the company had it not been for the public intervention that took place in 2020. ANA-Airports, handed over to Vinci, disinvests and, with government support, jeopardises the construction of the new [Lisbon] airport in the Alcochete Shooting Range. At NAV, the lack of investments in the air-traffic control system heightens the dangers for national sovereignty of the "single sky" [EU policy].
A parallel regime was created for passenger transport by car, in non-identified vehicles, representing unfair competition with the Taxi sector, increasing precariousness and the domination of multinationals such as UBER.
In the ports, the privatisation of operations continues, handing them over to multinationals. The country's dependence on foreign ship-owners intensified, with an unacceptable regulation of foreign ships over an almost non-existing national merchant navy.
In Telecommunications and Postal Services, liberalisation and privatisation continues. The State has handed the public radio spectrum to private interests. Telecommunications are among the most expensive in Europe and all public needs are contracted with private ones. Successive PPPs harm the State in millions of euros and do not even guarantee the satisfaction of the needs to be met. In some regions, access to the Internet and the mobile network is non-existent or very insufficient. DTT [public Digital Terrestrial Television] is limited in the number of channels so as not to compete with the private offer.
The leap to the 5G network is being designed so as to transfer it to the dominance and exploitation of multinationals.
The consequences of the privatisation of CTT are clear, with the marked degradation of the postal service and its subordination to financial activity with [the creation of a] CTT Bank.
The right-wing policy has led the State and Public Administration to a situation of extreme frailty. The dismantling of scientific and technological infrastructure has destroyed many of the State's centres of skills and knowledge. The degradation and organic weight of the inspection and supervision structures has represented an effective decrease in State intervention. The depletion and non-renewal of human and material resources of public services has jeopardised the duties of Public Administration in the most diverse aspects, namely those that refer to the competences and services of the State.
This is the result of the neoliberal vision of a "minimal State", whose functions are to be replaced and carried out by contracting with private companies, as is the case of economic auditing services which have been completely handed over to four multinationals. On the other hand, the so-called "independent" regulatory and supervisory bodies of competitiveness, energy, water supply and waste, communications (AdC, ERSE, ERSAR, ANACOM and others), created in the process of privatisation and liberalisation of strategic sectors, prove to be conditioned by the power and interests of the monopolies.
Budgetary policy continues subjected to the constraints imposed by the EU, namely in assuming speedier deficit reduction as a key goal. Budgetary management countered positive aspects of the Budgets [that were adopted] and remained subject to the use of captivations and other treasury operations. The low levels of public investment are worsened by the lack of control instruments and a policy that promotes their low rate of execution.
Taxes are essential to finance all State functions, services and activities and for a fairer redistribution of wealth. Fiscal policy has been marked in recent decades by a trend of higher taxation on wages and low and medium incomes, as compared to high-value income and assets, as attested by the growth in the relative weight of direct taxes (namely VAT) in the tax revenue and the weight of the Income Tax, which is much higher than the Corporate Tax, in total taxes on incomes.
The size and nature of the imbalances mark the current economic and social geography of the country, irrefutable expressions of which are the continuous depopulation of vast areas of the territory and the infrastructural shortcomings in the higher density areas.
The territorial imbalances, inseparable from the logic inherent to the capitalist mode of production that are established at different levels, from the right-wing policy and from the process of capitalist integration in the EU, have been deepening. The successive announcements of programmes regarding the “countryside” elude the political options that were at their root.
Housing is viewed as a commodity, a source of profit and a vehicle for capital accumulation. The real estate sector, including housing construction and renovation, is the target of the activity and speculative action of financial groups. The housing market remains marked by the predominance of the acquisition of own housing and the resulting bank debt. The exponential increase in rents, making them out of bounds for the overwhelming majority of families, the precariousness of lease contracts, the increase in evictions, and the policies of submission to golden visas and tax benefits for foreign residents, indelibly mark the problems of housing in the country.
In the environmental area, pressure to commodify natural resources and Nature's functions, associated with privatisation and the degradation of State resources, has prevented the development of a true policy to defend the balance of Nature.
The policy on environment, management of natural resources and territorial planning is based on submission to the interests of monopoly groups. The results of the private control of land use transformations leave negative marks and prevent the guarantee of a cohesive and balanced country, based on territorial planning and an environmental policy that revitalises and preserves the living conditions of the populations.
The message of shifting the burden of environmental problems to the individual and the promotion of a false conflict between generations, seek to conceal the responsibilities of the capitalist mode of production for environmental degradation and aims to create acceptance, among the masses, that environmental problems are solved exclusively by using technology, financial and speculative mechanisms, the taxation of individual behaviour and "green markets or consumption".
The so-called "green taxation" has deepened fiscal injustice and hides under this designation the penalisation of populations. The so-called market instruments in the environmental area, such as carbon emission licenses, have demonstrated effects contrary to those announced at the EU level, being nothing more than speculative mechanisms designed to ensure profits for some, commodify Nature and place resources and even natural functions at the service of the economic groups responsible for their degradation.
The so-called "green industries" and even recycling and waste management industries, operated in a profit-making logic, have fundamentally served to create new vehicles for the accumulation of value through new expenditures of energy and materials and are thus part of the problem.
In the field of waste, the polluter-pays principle, aimed at paying for damage and ignoring its prevention, increases the pressure to commodify its management, the root of the problems in the sector, particularly in the import of waste. The privatisation of EGF was a key factor in favouring economic groups to develop the waste business market.
The so-called projects for the co-management of protected areas, removing responsibility from the State, will be an incentive to privatise and commodify Nature, biodiversity and natural resources, and will worsen the lack of material and human resources of public structures to manage them.
The pressure for the exploitation of mineral resources by foreign economic and multinational groups, in a context of weakening public structures, does not guarantee the safeguarding of the country's interests from an economic, social and environmental point of view.
In the field of water resource management, public structures have lost workers, resources and competences, and have been removed from reservoir management. The lack of public investment, poor management and management focused on making profits in the dams dedicated to energy production have aggravated problems of drought, pollution and loss of water quality. Public structures have lost the ability to ensure the management, planning and even monitoring of international protocols.
The strategy of commodifying and privatising water has continued, preparing the handing of water collection and distribution and the collection and treatment of wastewater to private companies. The verticalization process of these public services also contributes to this objective, by expropriating the competences of municipalities and blackmailing for aggregation with the creation of large systems. A strategy which PS and PSD municipalities have carried out with the concession of their [water] systems, some of which have already reverted back to the municipalities due to the serious consequences both for the populations and for the public exchequer.
Despite significant steps to promote the use of public transport - inseparable from the decisive intervention of the PCP - an increase in supply and quality continues to be necessary.
Portugal needs a shift in environmental policy, aimed at preserving the balance of Nature and its ecological systems, based on national production as opposed to long production and distribution chains imposed by liberalised trade, respecting the "precautionary principle" in the face of new threats and problems, to prevent and mitigate the effects of climate change, and which promotes and guarantees the democratisation of access and fruition of Nature, combating the commodification of the environment and its ideological and political instrumentalization by big capital.
2.13. Patriotic and left-wing policy
The advances achieved during the period of the new phase of national political life have not changed the profound structural problems that plague the country, due to the contradictions inherent in the options of the PS and its minority government, at the service of big capital and submission to the EU, which highlights the convergence in fundamental aspects with PSD and CDS, accompanied by its most reactionary surrogates, Iniciativa Liberal and Chega, to guarantee the essentials of the right-wing policy in core matters and areas of government action.
This reality highlights the timeliness and urgency of the struggle to break with the right-wing policy and for an alternative patriotic and left-wing policy.
A patriotic policy, which inscribes national sovereignty and independence as a central goal, affirming the inalienable right of the Portuguese people's decision-making power regarding the indispensable options and guidelines to implement them, and the prevalence of that sovereign will over any and all external constraints and impositions.
A left-wing policy that, without hesitation, assumes the break with the right-wing policy and the interests of big capital, and inscribes as a goal to value the rights and income of the workers and people, to improve the living standards of other anti-monopoly classes and strata, to promote justice and social progress.
A patriotic and left-wing policy that, based on the principles and values of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, are part of the struggle for the implementation of PCP’s Programme «An Advanced Democracy - The Values of April in the Future of Portugal» and which is an integral part of the construction of a socialist society in Portugal.
A policy that, based on the essential pillars and objectives - in its political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and national independence dimension - has eight priorities:
The mass struggle and the patriotic and left-wing alternative
3.1. The mass struggle
Developments in recent decades confirm that only a break with right-wing politics will pave the way for economic development, social progress and the affirmation of national interests, a goal which is inseparable from the strength and determination of the struggle of the working class, all workers and anti-monopoly strata.
In the period since the 20th Congress, the mass struggle confirmed its prominent and irreplaceable role in defending, restoring and conquering rights, in resisting the attacks and limitations on freedoms and guarantees, and in responding to the problems and aspirations of the workers and people.
3.2. Working class and workers’ struggle, the engine of the mass struggle
The past few years have once again demonstrated the decisive role of the struggle of the working class and working people as the most decisive element for improving their living and working conditions, for raising social and political consciousness, and for asserting an alternative.
This struggle has been decisive in increasing wages, including the National Minimum Wage; defending collective bargaining and guaranteeing the resulting rights; in reducing working hours, with more workers with a 35-hour week, and rejecting the deregulation of working hours through adaptabilities, banks of hours and concentrated shifts; in providing permanent contracts for thousands of workers with precarious ties; in increasing the number of vacation days; and in forcing the payment of overtime and night and shift work.
The new political framework resulting from the change in the parliamentary balance of forces did not change the class nature of the PS and its minority governments.
In this context, PS not only kept most of the harmful rules in the labour legislation – namely the expiration of collective labour agreements, the facilitation and cheapening of redundancy payments, and not restoring the principle of more favourable treatment – as, in close alliance with the bosses, UGT and PSD and CDS, has worsened the labour legislation.
In this context, the struggle and fight developed and organized by the trade-unions of CGTP-IN and the workers in diverse sectors of activity, public and private, played a prominent role.
This struggle was waged in the workplace, companies, services and in the streets, with diverse expressions, namely in the celebrations of April 25th and the May 1st days of action – especially those in 2020, opposing the reactionary offensive against their realization – as well as in other actions of struggle, such as the rallies on National Youth Day or the Week for Equality. A struggle that had its largest mass expression in moments of convergence, which were all the more vigorous and important because to ensure their size they counted, essentially, on the capacity of organization and mobilization of workers and their class trade union central, CGTP-IN. In 2017, the National Day of Struggle on June 3rd, "United to Value Work and Workers", the National Demonstration on November 18th, "Fight to Value Work and Workers"; in 2018, the National Action on March 14th for the "Repeal of the harmful norms of the Labour Legislation", the National Demonstration on June 9th "For better living and working conditions, for rights, for valuing workers", the National Rally in front of Parliament on July 6th "Against the labour agreement of the PS Government", the great National Demonstration on November 15th "Advance with rights, value the workers"; in 2019, the National Rally in front of Parliament on April 11th with the slogan "No to the Draft Law of the PS Government", the National Demonstration on July 10th "Repeal the anti-labour norms, increase wages, value workers", and the National Action in front of Parliament on July 19th "Against the law worsening the Labour Code".
There were important struggles in diverse sectors of the economy, namely: metallurgical, chemical, petroleum, pharmaceutical, electrical, automotive, mining, pulp, paper and printing, trade and retail, logistics and large-scale distribution, food and beverage, hotel, restaurant, canteen, transportation, ports, airports, communications, call centres, textiles, clothing and footwear, ceramics, glass and cork, cleaning and security, social solidarity institutions, arts and entertainment. [These struggles] involved thousands of workers who gave public expression to their grievances, in particular for a rise in wages, against precarious jobs, for job security and jobs with rights, for a reduction in working hours and against adaptabilities, time banks, and concentrated schedules, in defence of collective agreements, against the expiration of collective agreements and for the restoration of the principle of more favourable treatment of the worker, as well as the fulfilment of rights laid down in collective agreements.
This struggle also mobilized workers in Public Administration, both Central and Local, for an increase of wages, for time served contributing towards career progression, for fair assessment system, and in diverse sectors, including water, sanitation, and waste treatment, health, security forces and services, the justice system, teachers and non-teaching staff in public schools, Social Security workers and most public and municipal services, as well as workers in the State-owned company sector.
Life has shown and continues to prove that the action and struggle of workers in the companies and workplaces, strengthening their representative structures, is the most decisive contribution in the struggle against insecurity, repression and exploitation, to defend collective bargaining and a general rise in wages, to reduce the normal work period to a 35-hour workweek for all employees without loss of pay, and for an improvement of working and living conditions.
3.3. The struggle of other classes, strata and social groups and of populations
The struggle of other classes, strata and social groups and of communities reached a relevant scale and contributed to solve concrete problems and raise awareness about the struggle’s potential.
In a political framework where advances were possible – even if limited and insufficient – with the struggle of workers and PCP's decisive intervention, the social alliance being established between the working class and the other classes and intermediate strata, thus broadening the social front of struggle, was a decisive factor for political convergence with the goal of defeating right-wing policies.
This convergence is all the more important as it takes place in a context of concentration of power by the big bourgeoisie, which seeks to hinder the organization of the growing mass of wage workers and the affected small entrepreneurs/producers, or push them towards reactionary conceptions and projects.
The struggle of these classes, strata and social groups and of local communities is very important to pursue the Party's policy of social alliances.
The struggle of farmers against the neoliberal policies confronting family farming, as well as small and medium-sized agriculture, forcing the closure of farms, favouring property concentration, with widespread aging of producers, and the subsequent worsening of the food deficit. We highlight the great national demonstration promoted by the National Confederation of Agriculture (CNA), in November 2018, in defence of national production and the rural world and the rights of populations and owners affected by the 2017 [forest] fires.
The struggle of fishermen and small ship-owners against the measures resulting from the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy of the European Union, which deprives them of conditions for the exercise of their activity through numerous periods of interdiction and small catch quotas, which in turn is aggravated by the widespread degradation of ports, the ageing of fishermen and fleets, and the absence of social protection systems appropriate to the sector.
The struggle of micro, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs for their specific demands and against being crushed by monopolies, in a context where they have been the entreprises which suffered the most from the recurrent crises, with inadequate fiscal policies, and with the country's submission to the European Union and the Euro.
The struggle of technical staff and intellectual workers is expressed in various sectors of activity, namely against precariousness, for access to their profession and valuing their careers, and in the general struggle.
The struggle of art and cultural workers and agents for a policy of promotion and support for the arts that values working conditions with rights, recognizes and projects their role in society, and guarantees effective cultural and artistic freedom.
The struggle of the youth around their aspirations and specific problems, with emphasis on the demands around employment with rights, for free and quality public schools, equality, access to housing, the right to mobility, to sport, to culture, and in defence of the environment.
The struggle of women for specific goals of equality, the exercise of their rights at work, in the family and in life, and an important contribution to the general struggle, in particular the women's demonstrations convened by the Democratic Movement of Women (MDM) to celebrate International Women's Day, which have given mass expression to the struggle in defence of women's rights and for a true policy of equality.
The struggle of the old-age and other pensioners and the elderly for better pensions and valuing their civic participation, for aging with dignity and for the rights won during their working life, holding meetings, debates, demonstrations and their annual picnic.
The struggle of people with disabilities against inequality and discrimination, demanding a policy of true social inclusion.
The struggle of the professionals of the security forces and services for their socio-professional and union demands.
The military and their actions toward valuing the military condition and defending their rights, freedoms and guarantees, namely regarding their working conditions, careers, health and social support.
The struggles of legal practitioners, which took various forms, around their statutes, the reinforcement of human and material means, including for criminal investigation.
The struggle of emigrants and all Portuguese and Portuguese-descendants abroad in defence of the rights of Portuguese communities, namely against the governmentalization of the Council of Communities; for policies of language, education and culture that promote an effective link to Portugal; for measures that stimulate their participation in national elections; and for the strengthening of an efficient, quality and proximity consular network.
The struggle of immigrants for the right to legalization; against discrimination; demanding compliance with the Portuguese Constitution and the application and oversight of existing laws; for the guarantee to equality and the realization of their rights, with respect for cultural and linguistic diversity.
The struggle in defence of peace, against militarism and war, against NATO and imperialism, defending solidarity and cooperation between peoples, by holding diverse street actions, debates, concerts and exhibits, among other initiatives, including the Meeting for Peace.
The struggle in defence of the environment, ecological balance and respect for the limits of natural resources included a growing involvement of youth.
The struggle developed by populations covered diverse causes, including: against closing branches of Caixa Geral de Depósitos [public bank] and CTT post offices; the defence and reinforcement of the NHS and Public Education; the defence of day-care centres and after-school programs, against their closure; in defence of housing and against property speculation; against the privatization and concession of public water and sanitation services; for quality public transportation and against road tolls; to protect cultural heritage and the environment; and in defence of the restoration of [administrative] parishes that were abolished.
The struggle, with diverse dynamics and contents, against discrimination and prejudice, particularly in relation to sexual orientation.
These struggles resulted in important achievements, which must be valued. This political context also demands that the Party develops close ties to the masses and its ability to mobilize, as well as affirm its identity and nature, and stimulate its own political action and initiative.
3.4. The broad-based organization of the working class and workers. The Trade Union Movement
Organized in their class trade unions, the working class and workers have in CGTP-IN – the main trade union confederation of workers in Portugal, the basis of the United Trade Union Movement (MSU) – the firm, consequential and trustworthy organization that, throughout its 50-year long history, the resistance to fascism, the April Revolution, the counter-revolution and during the decades of right-wing policies, has played its role and assumed its responsibilities in defending the interests of the working class and the country.
An organization that – according to its Declaration of Principles and Programmatic Objectives - in its ideology and action, links the struggle of workers for their specific and immediate interests with the more general struggle for social transformation and construction of a society without exploiters or exploited.
Its strength and influence lies in its deep connection with workers and workplaces, the workers’ trust in the organization, inseparable from the assertion of its class nature, based on action practiced in full respect for its principles and essential characteristics of mass organization, unity, democracy, independence and solidarity. These principles, characteristics, role and commitment to action were reaffirmed during the 14th CGTP-IN Congress, held in 2020. This event was a great success, in itself an expression of this distinctive and transformational trade union project, which confirms CGTP-IN and the MSU as decisive and irreplaceable social forces in the present and future battles.
In a world where capitalism strengthens its exploitative, oppressive and aggressive nature in an attempt to overcome its worsening structural crisis; when it appropriates the advances in science and technology or takes advantage of an epidemic to bring back old recipes to maximize profit, to concentrate and centralize wealth, at the expense of more exploitation and attacks on workers’ rights and working conditions; when, from its command centres, it instigates and intensifies a brutal ideological offensive to hinder resistance and criminalize the organized struggle; when its promotes the creation and proliferation of divisive organizations in the service of capital's interests, from the discredited UGT and corporative unions to the more recent operations of proliferation of trade unions taking advantage of problems and dissatisfaction, orchestrated by the customary international centres and developed with vast support and broad media promotion, from reactionary sectors, business areas and allegedly radical groups, who want to weaken, disintegrate and see the capitulation of CGTP-IN and the MSU – the present importance and need for a class trade union movement which resists, finds answers for problems, reinforces its class nature, organization, unity and coherent struggle is an unavoidable reality.
As the demands from the workers' and trade union movement increase, old lines of attack against the influence of Communists in the united trade union movement re-emerge. There are attempts to falsify historical reality and the role that Communists have always had and have, in their workplaces, in defence of workers' interests and rights, and in strengthening their unity, organization and struggle; attempts to obscure that their large influence results not from any Party imposition or interference, but from the trust they receive from workers, electing them democratically, in broad ballots, for their representative structures, the trade unions, the federations, unions and CGTP-IN.
The obstacles, the new and old problems the MSU faces do not result from its class nature and identity or the influence of Communists, but rather from capitalist exploitation and oppression and the right-wing options and policies, pursued over decades by successive PS, PSD and CDS governments. Therefore, there is a need to strengthen the Party, its organization and intervention in the companies and workplaces, and the commitment of its militants in the battle to raise awareness and understanding of the importance of collective action, developing the formation of class consciousness and strengthening united action and the workers' structures. This demands safeguarding and strengthening the broad-based character of CGTP-IN and the MSU, based on convergence with other workers without party or affiliated to other parties and with different political, ideological or religious sensibilities, implying convergence on the basis of an identification with principles, goals and priorities, against capital's action and trade union divisionism.
The deterioration of the economic, social, and labour situation, and the persistence of structural deficits demand a response to the immediate problems of the workers, and confirm and reinforce the central priorities of union intervention and action, with initiatives in the workplace, promoting individual and collective rights in the legislation and collective agreements and against any attempt to restrict or impede the exercise of the right to trade union action and organization, the right to strike or protest. It is important to develop the struggle in defence of jobs with rights, against precariousness, for permanent positions for all workers with duties of a permanent nature; for an overall increase in wages and the national minimum wage, valuing professions and careers; for a 35-hour workweek; for conditions of health and safety in the workplace; for the rejection of the onerous labour laws; in defence and for stronger public services and social functions of the State; for a just tax policy.
Unionization – inseparable from industrial action, the dynamics of the struggle, the results achieved and their dissemination – forms the basis of the workers' organized force and guarantees the autonomy and financial independence of the unions and the United Trade Union Movement. Unionization, as a permanent task, and the strengthening of trade union organization in companies and services, is a responsibility of all trade union cadres, to which Communist militants in companies must contribute.
At the same time, internationalist cooperation and solidarity with the struggle of workers and peoples against exploitation, blockades, interference and war, for the right to self-determination and independence – an essential practice and characteristic of CGTP-IN – gains renewed importance, given the resurgence of the imperialist offensive on a global scale.
At the European level, CGTP-IN collaborates with organizations affiliated and unaffiliated to the ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation), to which it is affiliated. This organization is an integrated and integral part of the dominant system that promotes class reconciliation, namely as part of the capitalist integration of the European Union, but where CGTP intervenes respecting its own principles, characteristics and guidelines, while maintaining its independence in thought and action, seeking convergence and unity of action with other trade unions.
Given the two global organizations, the WFTU (World Federation of Trade Unions) and the ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation), with different orientations – the former, anti-imperialist; the latter, collaborationist and manager of the capitalist system – for historical reasons and to preserve its united nature and internal cohesion, CGTP-IN has no global affiliation. However, it develops an intense international action and solidarity, prioritizing contacts, cooperation and relations at the bilateral and multilateral levels with trade union organizations of all continents with whom there is affinity of principles and action, in defence of the class interests of workers.
The movement of Workers' Councils (CT) – a target of capital's offensive to limit the rights of intervention and constrain its members – continues to have an important expression and, in essence, converges with the MSU, despite movements aimed at dividing the workers. The CTs, their sectoral and regional coordinators, the sectoral and regional meetings, and the National Meeting of Workers' Councils express a significant dimension of this movement. The action of Communists has been expressive in the dynamization of CTs, in their connection with workers, their articulation with the MSU and in creating CTs whenever that is useful to workers and contributes to their unity, organization and struggle.
The Movement of Unemployed Workers (MTD), given its nature, with a dynamic closely tied with job fluctuations and the policies pursued, assumes greater importance in the present context, demanding its reinforcement and intervention in the struggle of the unemployed for jobs with rights, for better social protection for these workers.
3.8. Political and Party Situation
The political and party situation following the general elections of October 2019 presents some changes, namely at the institutional level.
Beyond the characterization of each political force in itself, one must note elements of party positioning and rearrangements resulting from each party's activities, aims and positions and from the intervention of diverse sectors, including the President of the Republic, seeking to favour a formal approximation of PS and PSD, favourable to a less constrained development of the choices that have marked the right-wing policy. Additionally, one must also consider the dynamics and repositioning dictated by the emergence of new political forces (particularly on the right, but not only) and by the aim to whitewash past positions and practices. A party situation with the coexistence of a clear rise in reactionary and extreme-right expressions, the instrumentalization of prejudiced concepts to foster populists and demagogic currents, the exacerbation of themes and topics that in several cases overshadow the country's key problems determined by political opportunism or as a weapon against others.
The PS [Socialist Party] maintains the same structural choices of commitment to big capital and submission to the European Union, with its minority government now having greater freedom, given the change in the parliamentary balance of forces in 2019. This choice counters the reiterated proclamation of left-wing solutions, increasingly converges in decisive matters with PSD, embodies choices that prioritize the interests of big capital at the expense of labour; absolutizes reducing the deficit and debt at the expense of the need for investment and valuing the Public Administration and its services; a priority to charitable assistance at the expense of a more just distribution of wealth.
The BE [Left Block], which continues to benefit from media promotion – despite institutional convergence with PCP, which coexists with an anti-Communist prejudice – maintains a position marked by ideological inconsistency, cultivates an agenda and positioning based on verbalism that does not change its social-democratic nature, expressed in its federalist positions assumed in the framework of the European Union, its submission to the dominant ideological environment, the alignment with the aims of imperialism, and the ongoing historical revisionism.
The Ecologist Party «The Greens» confirmed and strengthened the diversification of its action and intervention around, essentially, environmental issues, with links to communities and concrete struggles that bring prestige and strengthen CDU and its support base. The targeted silencing and minimization by the media does not erase the quality and seriousness of their political and institutional work and the long-held pioneering role in areas such as the protection of nature, the environment or animals.
The PSD [Social Democratic Party] is undergoing a repositioning effort that may contribute to whitewash or erase its recent responsibility for the policies of social setback and economic decline that it imposed on the country. This effort cannot conceal the reaffirmation of goals explicitly assumed in its last congress, with the formulation of a reactionary political project that seeks to change the Constitution and electoral laws and subvert Social Security and the NHS. Despite frequent convulsions and internal disputes, PSD continues to be controlled by big capital as an instrument to promote right-wing policies.
The CDS [Popular Party], which sought to whitewash its past responsibilities with a change of leadership, in the dispute for space to the right, assumes a more clearly reactionary agenda and objectives.
The PAN [Animals and Nature Party], benefiting from media promotion, maintains action centred on the defence of animals and some environmental issues, basing its intervention on a demagogic discourse that includes basic anti-Communism and a clear convergence with components of the right-wing and the interests of big capital.
The political and party framework resulting from the last legislative elections is still marked by the election of representation of three new political forces: Livre [Free], Iniciativa Liberal [Liberal Initiative] and Chega [Enough].
Livre, presenting itself as a force of causes and urban influence, not always assuming its social-democratic and federalist character, obtained parliamentary representation that it then lost, in a process related to the nature and positions that promoted its electoral base.
Iniciativa Liberal and Chega are surrogates of PSD and CDS, associated with big capital's most reactionary centres, and assume and promote anti-democratic values and concepts. Their action is part of the general offensive, namely ideological, against the Portuguese workers and people, seeking new and deeper levels of exploitation, an expression of the inseparable tendencies of capitalism's structural crisis.
Invoking differences and seeking distance from PSD and CDS, with their political stance following the elections in Azores they proved their instrumental character, their identification with objectives and projects that converge with the commitment to the system of exploitation and attack on democracy.
It should be noted that Chega, stressing a demagogic discourse of exacerbating issues which it sees as bringing them support, deliberately hides its role at the service of capital, the fascistic dynamics in its action, as well as its true aims, clearly expressed in its program, of liquidating the NHS and public schools and subverting the constitutional regime.
3.9. The struggle for the patriotic and left-wing alternative
The reality confronting our people and country highlights the struggle for a patriotic and left-wing political alternative, which includes a government capable of realizing this alternative, as a central and decisive element to ensure the necessary path, addressing the demands for development, progress and national sovereignty. A path that, sooner or later, the workers and people, through their action and struggle, will materialize.
The worsening economic and social situation, which the epidemic has accentuated in a context of structural fragility generated by right-wing politics in the country, demands an urgent break with the guidelines, logic, and class options of right-wing policies and a clear commitment to national sovereignty.
A break that demands determination and incessant action by the political forces that wish to give it substance and that has as its essential condition the enlargement of the struggle's social front, the decisive involvement of the working class and workers, and the massive participation of all anti-monopoly classes, strata and sectors, of all those affected by right-wing politics and of those who are truly and genuinely interested in turning the tide in national politics.
The patriotic and left-wing alternative – a complex and possibly protracted process – is an integral part of the struggle for an Advanced Democracy. The struggle of the masses, built step by step, around concrete objectives, around labour, social, economic and political demands, with actions of greater or lesser dimension, contributes to raise social and political consciousness and to a decisive broadening of the demand for a different course.
Associated with the development of the struggle is work to deepen dialogue and convergence with democrats and patriots without party affiliation, in order to achieve the necessary break. A serious dialogue, with clear objectives, with all who are genuinely committed to the realization of an alternative project, guided by the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, implies respect for the natural differences, overcoming prejudice, rejecting hegemonic ambitions and refusing marginalizations.
In this process of constructing alternative politics, the development of the mass struggle, the enlargement of the struggle's social front, and the strengthening of PCP's political, social, ideological and electoral influence are inseparable aspects toward the necessary change in the political balance of forces.
This path that life confirms cannot be postponed. This urgent and also possible path will not be built by the PCP alone, but it will not be possible without, or against, the PCP.
While indispensable in this process, PCP will also be indispensable to a government that gives expression to this alternative, which must include various democratic forces, sectors and individuals, and count on the support of the organizations and mass movements from the anti-monopoly sectors. Its viability and political and institutional support will be achieved by the workers and people with their attitude, their will, their struggle and their vote.
An alternative policy, and the government that implements it, depend on the development of the mass struggle in its different dimensions – a determining and decisive factor – and will be all the more closer to realization the stronger is the PCP's intervention, organization and social, electoral and political influence.