Press Conference of Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) after the Meeting of the Central Commmitte held on the 17th October.

The Central Committee of the PCP analysed both the current political, economic and social situation, namely the developing mass struggle, the offensive against the workers and the Portuguese people with the 2011 State Budget proposal containing a new worsening factor and the increasing importance of the presidential election battle  in the current situation of the country.

The most recent development in the national political situation is marked by the presentation of the 2011 State Budget proposal. The measures it contains represent yet another serious step in the brutal escalation against labour incomes, the workers’ and peoples’ rights. It ignores the social duties of the State. It strongly harms the development of the country.

Three months after the last "austerity" package, which meant a further worsening of the social situation and more economic crisis, these new measures reveal, in their full scope, the class nature of the right-wing policy undertaken by PS and PSD, with the support of the big economic groups and financial capital, the complicity of CDS-PP and the support of the President of the Republic.

Adding crisis to crisis, the measures contained in the Budget will not solve the country’s problems, but will lead to a new economic recession, more unemployment and social injustice, an increase in the structural deficits, greater vulnerability and higher exposure to the voraciousness of transnational capital and the interests of the main European powers. With its undeniable class character, what is now announced represents a brutal attack on wages and salaries, a key factor in the increase of exploitation affecting all workers.

It is an attack on social protection, with new cuts in subsidies such as family allowance or social integration, a freeze on pensions and retirement payments and tax extensions on them, a reduction in reimbursements on healthcare costs and medicines. At the same time it weakens Social Security, applying a more than 10% cut in State transfers. It attacks the purchasing power of the population, not only by cutting the income of the workers, but also through a new increase in VAT [value added tax, i.e. the sales tax], energy, costs of court fees, and other State fees.

The government’s proposal increases the tax burden on labour incomes, increasing the collection of income tax, namely by imposing limits on deduction [on wages] over 530 Euros per month. It is an attack on employment and rights of the workers, with the announced elimination of jobs in the public sector and a freeze on admissions which, besides jeopardizing public functions – in health, education and social security – will represent a worsening of unemployment and dismantling of public services.

It is a budget which will represent a new threat to the survival of thousands of micro, small and medium-size companies, namely by penalizing domestic consumption, yet another brutal drop in public investment, like the 20% cut in PIDDAC [Investment and Development Costs Programme by the Central Administration] and new restrictions in the transfer of funds to the Autonomous Regions and Local governments.

The PCP Central Committee denounces that, together with the unbearable sacrifices imposed on the workers, PS and PSD are preparing to leave untouched the privileges and conditions for the accumulation of profit by the main economic and financial groups. With more than 90% of the bill to be paid for by the workers, and this affects all those living from labour income – the direct target of both of the measures is to increase revenue (1 700 million Euros) and to impose cuts in expenditure (3 420 million Euros). Big business, once again, has its interests safeguarded.

The Central Committee of the PCP points out that what is sought to be presented as unavoidable is, basically, the same choice as always, a choice determined by the interests of the capitalist class, a choice that PS, PSD and CDS-PP have long pursued.

This is not the Budget the country needs. Hence, the PCP will vote against this State Budget proposal.

The PCP reaffirms that there is a different course to answer the problems of the country.

A course which faces the pressures by capital and does not founder under foreign pressure.

A course which defends and develops national production and the productive apparatus as a condition to increase the national wealth, expand exports, cut imports, and lower the deficit and foreign debt.

It also reaffirms that the proposals presented in the Budget are not unavoidable measures, nor the only solution, as they say, including to combat the deficit immediately.

On this special aspect, the PCP draws attention to the twenty measures it presented to the country, which would not only substantially reduce unnecessary or redundant spending, but would increase revenue without increasing the already heavy tax burden on the workers, the pensioners, and on the micro and small entrepreneurs.

Of our twenty proposed measures, five would ensure significantly higher tax revenue, and finally to begin taxing untaxed incomes and untaxed profits. But, in relation to our proposed measures, there is a great silence or they are made to sound unviable.

Given the violent offensive under way and the demand for a new course for the country, the Central Committee considers that the development and intensification of the mass struggle is a key factor to block the right wing policy and its brutal effects .

It affirms the importance of the general strike called by CGTP-IN on this coming November 24th, a decision which answers the need to heighten the workers’ struggle in light of the brutal offensive underway.

The PCP highly esteems the difficult and dynamic work of contact, explanation and mobilization underway in the enterprises and workplaces and the developing series of struggle actions. It stresses the importance of the national rally by the public administration workers called by the Common Front unions on November 6th in Lisbon.

The Central Committee appeals to the various sectors targeted by the current policy and to the populations to join the general strike. It encourages the workers to get involved in its preparation, organisation and to participate in a great patriotic demonstration of resistance, rebellion and struggle.

It also highlights the special importance of the rally against the holding of the NATO Summit in Portugal, called by the campaign "Yes to Peace, no to NATO", on November 20th, in Lisbon.

The Central Committee stresses, in this framework of a great anti-social and anti-popular offensive, the increased importance and value of the candidacy of Francisco Lopes to the Presidency of the Republic.

With a clarity of purpose and stance that clearly distinguishes it from all others, the candidacy of Francisco Lopes assumes in these elections an essential and irreplaceable role, by its solid bond to the interests of the workers and the people, and by its coherent assumption of their struggle and hopes as factors in building an alternative, patriotic and left-wing policy. It is a candidacy which, unlike all others, has no record of commitment to or involvement with the right wing policy that has dragged the country into decline.

The Central Committee reaffirms that this the most brutal offensive underway against the rights of the workers and the Portuguese people since the times of fascism. It is a process of blackmail and pressure on national interests led by big national and foreign capital. It is linked to a framework of increasing subordination to the guidelines of the European Union. It  cannot be defeated without a break with the right-wing policy and a profound change in national life.