Thursday, May 20, 2010

Debate "European Union 2020 Strategy" May 10th 2010, Lisbon, Portugal

Debate "European Union 2020 Strategy" May 10th 2010, Lisbon, Portugal

Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa,

Secretary General of the Portuguese Communist Party

Allow me to begin by saluting and valuing your presence and contributions to this initiative of the GUE/NGL and PCP, and particularly thank those comrades that accepted our invitation to come to Portugal and participate in this reflection.

Your presence is not only an expression of cooperation that our Parties maintain within the Parliamentary Group of the European Parliament – to which PCP has given and will continue to give its contribution – but also a demonstration of solidarity with our people and with our Party.

Solidarity that – during a time of special demand and complexity for the worker's and people's struggle and for the worker's movement, communists and other progressive forces of Europe ¬we want to repay by strongly valuing the struggles that develop and strengthen all over the continent, as well as here in Portugal.

Already here today much has been said about the nature, the real objective and the content of the 2020 Strategy. It is in fact a strategic document for big European capital, that while pilfering the nefarious consequences of its predecessor – the Lisbon Strategy – reaffirms and deepens the neoliberal policies of the European Union in very diverse fields and insists on the strategy of so-called "exit to the crisis" by means of increased exploitation and supporting big capital. A Strategy that will deepen – if implemented – all the roots and causes of the profound crisis we are living today.

Several comrades referred to the failure of the Lisbon Strategy and they have reason to do so. Here, in Lisbon, during the European Council of March 2000, we alerted that the Lisbon Strategy would not create more jobs with rights, would not eradicate poverty and social exclusion, and would hardly ensure a strong growth that would make Europe – I quote – "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy of the world, characterized by durable economic growth, full employment and greater economic and social cohesion".

Today, whenever we recall this propaganda catch-phrase, some smirk and other disguise their responsibility by whistling to the side. That's natural. It is the European Commission itself that today affirms that industrial production is at the level of the 90s; that unemployment affects 10% of the active population, that is 23 million people; that 21% of young people don't have a right to work; that there are 83 million poor in the European Union and that the combined GDP of the European Union member states fell 4% only in the last year.

There are, in fact, enough reasons to state that the Lisbon Strategy failed. It failed in its proclaimed objectives, although we know it did not fail in achieving its class objectives. For the Lisbon Strategy had, in fact, other objectives. Class objectives, of a specific class, and that we denounced at the time: to increase the exploitation of workers, adopting the demands of European bosses; to reduce what they call "labor costs", legalizing and generalizing labor deregulation, casualisation and mobility; guaranteeing hefty profits for the big economic groups (namely in the area of new technologies and services), and to financial capital; to hand over to private capital the strategic sectors of the economy and proceed with its deregulation; to seriously attack public services that are of interest to capital, in areas such as health, social security, education, culture and justice, and advance in the liberalization of commerce in the name of sacred competitiveness and free enterprise. It is therefore easy to conclude, from this point of view – a class perspective, I insist – that the Lisbon Strategy was a success. We need only review the evolution of profits by the big economic groups in the financial, energy, transportation, new technologies, communication and service sectors. We need only see how the Bolkestein directive and Working Time directive (to refer but two examples) went along with the interests of European bosses. Or yet, how the redistribution of wealth evolved, with clear and constant advantage towards capital in detriment of work incomes.

It is likewise easy to conclude that, if not defeated by the struggle, the 2020 Strategy will mean even more success for capital at the cost of the destruction of what remains of the social functions of States, of the destruction of the productive systems of the economies most weakened by economic dependency, at the cost of more unemployment, lower wages, less social and labor rights, greater poverty and other social ailments that spread across Europe, like hunger. We are therefore on the battleground of the old, yet so present, class struggle in Europe. Upon this battleground, we cannot, obviously, isolate this or that aspect of policies or orientations that preside the process of European capitalist integration. If we are justified in asking, with regards to the 2020 Strategy, "what is it good for and whom does it serve?" , the same question should also be asked of the Stability Pact, the Economic and Monetary Union, the Euro, the European Central Bank, the so-called foreign policy of the European Union and the Treaties – such as the Maasctricht and Lisbon Treaties. In summary, the same question need be asked of the neoliberal, federalist and militarist European Union. And the answer is to be found, as well, in this 2020 Strategy: it increasingly serves interests that are alien to the workers and peoples of Europe.

The situation we are living demonstrates very well what we have just affirmed. One by one, the dogmas of the European Union and the instruments destined to impose an accelerated capitalist integration in Europe are put into question by reality, the facts. The most recent events clearly reveal the degree of falsehood of the discourse of solidarity, cohesion and "social Europe", and lay bare the true purpose of the instruments contained in the treaties, the common policies and the Strategies.

So say the workers, victims of real social terrorism resulting from the forward escape of big capital, of the European Union and the vast majority of governments, faced with the deepening crisis of capitalism.

So say the peoples of several European countries, confronted with speculation directed by the decisions centers of big capital. The same financial capital that received billions of euros from governments. The same governments and Parties that now, faced with speculation, do not hide their class nature and extend the red carpet to pillaging, transferring the bill of the theft onto workers.

So say the workers and people of Greece. Unfortunately, the volcanic ashes did not allow the representative from the Communist Party of Greece to land last night in Lisbon. But it will not be because of his forced absence from this debate that we will refrain from very fraternally saluting the Greek communists and expressing our firm solidarity with the struggle that, side by side with the working and popular masses and with the class-based trade union movement, they are so courageously undertaking.

An entire people falls victim of blackmail from the IMF, the Commission, the Council, the ECB, the big powers like Germany, and its own government, but does not break. A people that understood the real meaning of some ill-labeled "aids", paid with talk and that will go straight to the safes of big capital. It is fair to say: help like this is rejected by the Greek workers and people! And it was out of solidarity with the people of Greece that PCP, together with the Ecologist Party "The Greens", were the only two political forces to vote against the legislative proposal that will unleash the so-called "aid to Greece".

The reality, and these "loans" prove it, is that the peoples of Europe are the victims of a policy of concentration and centralization of economic and political power, source of economic dependency and fragility of their country's economies. The truth is that they are the victims of a policy of competition between the big European powers and the USA, namely around the monetary issue, a very concrete expression of the deepening of inter-imperialist contradictions, between the European Union and the USA, and within the European Union itself.

They are the victims of the classic capitalist escape from its own crisis, that is: increase in the rate of exploitation; greater inequalities; more and deeper attacks upon the sovereignty of countries; growing threats and provocations to democracy and the forces that resist the voracity of capitalist exploitation. The reality is that, in this framework, the European Union, with its policies, instruments and institutions is once more operating as an instrument of oppression by the dominant classes.

Many attempts to throw sand in our eyes with speeches invoking the need for sacrifices in order to fight the crisis and save the Euro, the Economic and Monetary Union, save the European Union, imagine!

To those people we reply, first, that with regards to sacrifices, the workers and peoples know them better than anyone else. Sacrifices were asked of us in order to avoid a crisis, then to pay for the crisis and now to "recover from the crisis".

Second, we reply that we know that these sacrifices are not inevitable. On the contrary, they are a premeditated and conscience class option, strategic from the point of view of capital's interests, to ensure profits in the present and guarantee in the future – with the so-called strategy to exit the crisis – an even more unbalanced correlation between capital and labor.

Third, we retort with a question: sacrifices to save what and whom? To save the big economic groups that continue to register obscene profits? To save financial capital that is profiting rivers of money with this crisis? To save the policies that withdraw rights, that worsen the living conditions of workers and peoples and that destroy the productive sectors of countries like Portugal? Do not count on us for that. It would be like asking the condemned to save the executioner. And fourth, we respond that – because we know the origin of this profound crisis affecting the whole world all too well – we have very clear ideas and very concrete proposals to fight the crisis. We respond that fighting the crisis in the European Union requires a rupture with its neoliberal and federalist path, a rupture with the orientations of its economic and monetary policy, and the end of the ill named "Growth and Stability Pact". Fighting the crisis requires a total inversion of the anti-social policies of the European Union, so blatant in the "2020 Strategy". Fighting the crisis requires a respect for democracy, a deepening of labor and social rights, and fostering the action and struggle of the worker's movements, namely the class-based trade unions – not targeting them. Fighting the crisis requires defending a real convergence and cooperation. A cooperation founded on social progress, on the support to national production and public investment, on the reinforcement of public services, on jobs with rights. A cooperation that puts an end to the so-called "free" circulation of capitals, an end to fiscal paradises and derived financial products, and assumes once and for all a real fight against financial and stock-market speculation. If that is the path, then we will be along the path to fight the crisis.

A crisis that, in Portugal, takes a dramatic form, amplifying the main problems our country was already facing. A crisis that struck a highly debilitated country, as a result of years and years of right-wing policies and the monopolistic recovery – against the achievements of the April Revolution – implemented by the government of the Socialist Party (PS) and the right-wing parties, precisely those that worship the system and the policies that are at the heart of the international crisis.

Crisis that erupted when Portugal was, since 2002, in an accelerated economic and social divergence in relation to the European average, facing its most prolonged economic stagnation in the last decades and a dramatic worsening of the working and living conditions of workers and working populations.

In the name of the Lisbon Strategy and the competitiveness of the economy, the most brutal offensive against labor and socials rights was promoted, and by joining the common currency the Portuguese economy was not only confronted with a new factor of reduction of its competitive capacity, but also with its entailment to the Stability and Growth Pact and the nominal convergence criteria, which put an end to economic growth and development.

In the name of balancing the public deficit, steps were taken, as never before, in attacking the right of the Portuguese to health care, social security, education and culture, and a brutal offensive was launched against essential aspects of our democratic regime. The Public Education System, Social Security and the National Health Service suffered, during the last years, one of the greatest offensives of all time. The last two years of acute crisis of global capitalism and the destructive action that it brought added to the developing internal crisis, and led to an explosive destruction of the country's productive sector, the degradation of working conditions of large masses of workers, particularly with the brutal increase in unemployment.

Today the consequences of the policies that promoted financial deregulation and the casino economy, the privatizations, the market liberalizations, in detriment of real production and the living conditions of workers and peoples are well visible. Portugal is today not only a more unjust and unequal country socially and in the development of its territory, but it is also a more dependent, more indebted, more in deficit and more vulnerable country. This is the result of a prolonged political action oriented to promote a staggering centralization and concentration of wealth in favor of the big monopolist capital.

A policy that they are preparing to continue. This after condemning and distancing themselves from neo-liberalism and the free market; after giving speeches about "regulation", fighting off-shores and speculative financial activities. A staged farce enacted during the peak of the scandals of the financial system, when it became necessary to justify giving public funds to save speculators and financial capital.

Who can now remember the famous G-20 meeting that demanded supervision, regulation and the end of off-shores? Enough time has passed to see that nothing new or different has arisen or occurred under the dominion of the same political power that led us to the crisis and gave cover, here and in the rest of Europe, to the interests of big monopolistic financiers. And we didn't need to wait long to see those that absorbed immeasurable public resources once again unleashing the dogs of financial speculation and blackmail, and lunging, like implacable predators, at the resources of peoples.

Portugal lives at the present under an intense and dangerous operation of a speculative nature and is the object of true robbery, as are other countries. But the only exit that the dominant political powers present is the demand for more sacrifices from peoples. Powers that do not limit themselves to accepting blackmail. They use it, in concert and coordination, in order to double the stakes in the demand for sacrifices.

This is very clear in the Growth and Stability Program elaborated by the Portuguese government, that was presented to Brussels, and enabled by a negotiated resolution between the two parties that have led our country's governments during the last years. This a new attack being prepared against worker incomes, by cutting wages and increasing taxes, but also against all the main social benefits, against public and participated services and companies, with new privatizations and an unacceptable freeze of economic and employment growth, deepening and worsening even more the relative arrears of the country.

A Program that is simultaneously the unconditional surrender to the dictates of financial markets and a repetition of the harsher recipes, measures and orientations that have imposed so many sacrifices, inequalities and injustices upon the majority of the Portuguese people.

At a time when what is necessary is to give priority to policies that promote the growth of the economy and employment, what we see is a complete claudication – and from a government that calls itself socialist – to the demands of national and international big capital. A claudication that is often justified with the lament "that's how it is, there's nothing to be done". But we respond that yes, there is much, much to be done! We will not be defeated, whatever the circumstances in which we develop our struggle, and here we stand to build the present and future. We state this because we have a deep confidence in workers, our people and their struggle. A profound confidence in the women and men that do not give up struggling for their rights, that do not conform with the growing inequalities and with the attempts to make them pay for a crisis for which they bear no responsibility.

A confidence that has always been present throughout several generations of fighters. Those that defeated nazi¬fascism 65 years ago; those that 120 years ago, defying criminal repression, inaugurated the historic global day of struggle that is May 1st; those that, in our country, resisted half a century of fascism and made April 25th the most beautiful day of our History; and, finally, confidence present among those that in the last several years have filled the streets and avenues of our cities and towns. Folk, people, workers disposed to say Yes. Yes to a future of progress, equality, justice, peace and cooperation. These fighters can count on this Communist Party and all its forces, and so can those peoples here represented in our debate, specially the communist and progressive parties present here. Transmit to your militants and activists a message of confidence from the Portuguese communists and the solidarity of the Portuguese Communist Party.

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