Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of Portuguese Communist Party, Presentation of the programme of events for the Centennial Celebrations of the October Revolution
7 November 2016, Lisbon
Our Party has never relinquished celebrating that most momentous event in contemporary history – the Socialist Revolution of October 1917 – even under the most difficult and demanding circumstances, for it embodies the millenial dream of emancipation and liberation of generations of those exploited and oppressed!
PCP was born under the impetus of the October Revolution and was the result of a decision made by the Portuguese working class and workers in general of their own volition. Throughout its unique history, PCP not only took up its duty of expressing its internationalist solidarity with those engaged in such heroic and liberating endeavour, but also took on the responsibility of raising the awareness of workers and of our people about the meaning and achievements of a Revolution that paved the way for establishing a new type of society never before known to mankind and that caused far-reaching changes that were beneficial to workers and peoples.
As we approach 2017, the year that marks the centennial anniversary of an historic event which shook a world based on exploitation, we take up once again the responsibility for the celebrations. We have drafted the vast and diversified programme of celebrations that has just been presented. The programme will begin in January and one of its highlights will be the Centennial Mass Rally, to be held on November, 7.
The celebrations have a special meaning at the present time, as workers and peoples are faced with the absence of a key outcome of the October Revolution – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) – which had become a world force striving for progress, peace and friendship between peoples. And as they dramatically realize how more unfair, dangerous and insecure the world has become, how less peaceful and democratic it looks nowadays, but also how such absence has resulted in a worsening of capitalism’s misdeeds and a heightening of its oppressive, aggressive and predatory nature with tragic social consequences and increased threats to the existence of peoples and the survival of mankind as a whole. This historic setback shows very clearly the importance and reach of the October Revolution’s objectives and the need to to establish socialism now and for the future.
We, the workers and peoples have at present further reasons to turn the Centennial Celebrations of the October Revolution into an opportunity to reaffirm the value of that unprecedented historic event which marked the 20th century and became a driving force for momentous political and social transformations across the planet. And we should do so while raising the banner that has always guided us and that points towards socialism and communism as the ultimate goals of our struggle.
We will therefore launch the celebrations by stating that the October Revolution was the most advanced achievement in the millenarian process of liberation of mankind from all forms of exploitation and oppression, by honouring those who made it possible and by paying hommage to the great political, economic, social, cultural, scientific and civilizational accomplishments of socialism in the USSR and its enormous contribution to support the struggles of liberation of workers and peoples.
We will reaffirm not only the validity of socialism as the solution to address peoples’ and mankind’s great problems, but also demonstrate the need to and possibility of overcoming capitalism through revolution and replacing it with socialism and communism.
We will begin the Centennial Celebrations of the October Revolution by reaffirming and valuing the role of the working class, of workers in general and of peoples, their unity, organization and struggles in the process of historical transformation. In particular, we will highlight the historical role of the working class and its allies in that pioneering endeavour and in bringing about a new society, without social classes that oppose one another and free from the exploitation of man by man.
We will turn the celebrations into an opportunity to stress the importance of the struggles by workers and peoples and their decisive role, here and now, to ensure success in the fight against the current onslaught by big business and imperialism and to achieve their social and national emancipation.
We will celebrate the Centennial by looking at the developments of the revolutionary process across the world, its accomplishments and setbacks. We will learn from the experiences of an audacious political project that re-organized society with the interests of workers and the vast majority of people in mind, both in the Soviet Union and in other socialist countries. We will take on board its successes and defeats and we will reflect upon them, collecting and making use of the teachings of the complex processes involved in establishing a new society, which took place in unchartered territory. With those lessons, we will proceed and reinvigorate our present struggle to achieve what have always been our ultimate objectives, true that we are to the ideals of the October Revolution.
We will go into these Celebrations by confronting the detractors of history and a likely and renewed anti-communist ideological offensive aimed at defacing the October Revolution, the subsequent historical experiences of building socialism and the role of communists in contemporary history. An offensive designed to prevent workers and peoples from becoming aware of and understanding that there are alternatives to capitalism – a system that aims to deprive workers and peoples of their social and civilizational rights and causes wars in different parts of the world with a view to generate more and more profits.
We will go into this struggle by presenting the legacy of achievements and progressive transformations led by communists that marked the last century and were aimed at liberating and promoting the common good of mankind. These were initiatives that had a worldwide reach and made use of the theoretical instruments of marxism-leninism to defend socialism and communism. And we will denounce the roots and the role of anti-communism and anti-sovietism as tools used by big business to defend its dominant ideology and interests.
We will launch the Centennial Celebrations of the October Revolution by recalling its universal nature, the answers that it brought to contemporary social developments and how it inaugurated a new historical era – that of the transition from capitalism to socialism. Contrary to the claims made by falsifiers and mystifiers, the process launched on 7 November 1917 (or 25 October according to the old Russian calendar) was not an historical accident or a specifically Russian phenomenon.
The October Revolution has, for sure, certain features that are closely related to the history, culture, traditions, social and economic circumstances of Russian society and of the Tsarist empire. However, what undoubtedly marks the October Revolution is its universal historical dimension.
The October Revolution had its roots in the developments of world capitalism in its imperialist stage, as described by Lenin who developed the theses and analytical tools first put forward by Marx and Engels. It became the inevitable outcome of the revolutionary situation that developed in Russian society and of the conscious and far-sighted actions taken by the Russian proletariat and their Party – the Bolshevik Party – guided by a revolutionary theory, with notable contributions made by Lenin himself.
This allowed them to «rush to conquer heaven», to take destiny into their own hands, to conquer power and launch a victorious revolution that laid the foundations for a new society, in a country that had been ripped apart by the imperialist World War I and where the people suffered from exploitation, repression, famine and illiteracy.
It was a Revolution that embodied the aspirations of the millenial struggle by those exploited and oppressed ever since the uprisings of slaves in ancient times to the insurrections by the working class in the 19th century.
The historical roots of the October Revolution are to be found in other revolutionary experiences from which it drew important lessons, including the Paris Commune of 1871 and the Russian Revolution of 1905 – the first great popular revolution where the working class and workers in general acted in an organized manner – as well as the February Revolution of 1917 which put an end to the Tsarist regime.
The October Revolution was the first victorious socialist revolution. For the first time in history, the working class and their allies came to power and with that power engaged in an extraordinary process of social transformation, where millions of human beings who had previously been excluded from any political or social intervention became the actors and builders of their own future. The October Revolution had to face sabotage, interference by imperialist powers, civil war and an economic blockade. But early on, the revolutionaries set themselves the task of abolishing all forms of social and national exploitation and oppression. Among the first measures adopted were the Decree on Peace and the Decree on Land, which abolished landed estates. Both confirmed the humanist and progressive nature of the October Revolution.
The October Revolution transformed the old and backward Russia of the Tsars into a highly developed country that was able to contain for many decades imperialism’s goal of world domination.
In a short period of time, the USSR managed to achieve significant developments in industry and agriculture, erradicated illiteracy and generalized education and sports. It abolished unemployment; laid down in law and promoted the rights of women, children and the elderly; fostered the arts in its various forms; claimed remarkable achievements in science and technology; put into practice forms of democratic participation of workers and the masses; addressed the complex issue of the oppressed nationalities; promoted frienship, solidarity, peace and cooperation between peoples.
The Soviet Union was the first country in the world to enact or develop fundamental social rights, such as the right to work; a maximum of 8 working hours per day; paid leave; equal rights between men and women in households, life and work; maternity rights and their protection; right to housing; free healthcare; a free and universal social security system; and free education.
The accomplishments of the Soviet Union had a great impact internationally and inspired the struggles of workers and peoples across the world.
The exemplary nature of those revolutionary accomplishments and transformations made possible major social major achievements in developed capitalist countries, where the dominant classes feared new social revolutions.
The USSR, the Soviet people and the Red Army contributed decisively to the defeat of Nazi-fascism in World War II. Theirs was an heroic struggle and cost more than 20 million lives.
In the wake of the defeat of Nazi-fascism, bolstered by its example and enormous prestige, the strength of socialist ideas that it disseminated, as well as its solidarity and interventions on the international scene, the USSR provided significant support to the peoples that opted for and fought to establish socialist societies; to the struggles of millions of workers in capitalist countries for their rights and freedoms; to the emerging struggles of national liberation, the defeat of colonialism and to the independence of numerous peoples and nations that had been for centuries under the colonial yoke.
The Soviet Union expressed its solidarity with Portuguese communists and people in their struggle against the fascist dictatorship in Portugal as well as with the 1974 April Revolution – an accomplishment of the Portuguese people in their quest for freedom, social emancipation and national independence.
The USSR and the socialist system were often decisive factors in the achievements and advancements made for the first time by workers and peoples in their struggle for emancipation across the world.
This struggle suffered a major setback with the defeat of socialism in the USSR and in Eastern Europe during the final years of the 20th century. The causes were both internal and external and included the stiffening of a “model” that departed from and even contradicted key features of a socialist society. Among the causes for the defeat of socialism, the dwindling popular nature of political power and a political elite that became increasingly detached from the views of and the control and intervention by workers and the popular masses should be mentioned.
The origin of the disfigurements, mistakes and deviations that led to the tragic defeat of the Soviet Union should not be sought in the October Revolution itself, as claimed by the supporters of the dominant capitalist system and their misleading ideological campaigns, but rather in the negation of key principles of the communist ideal and the objectives that led to the Revolution.
Just as the October Revolution generated an extraordinary momentum for the struggles of workers and peoples, the triumph of the counter-revolution and the demise of the USSR had a deeply negative impact in the global correlation of forces, the consciousness of the masses and the development and struggle for socialism.
The world became more dangerously exposed to the exploitative and aggressive nature of big business. Workers and peoples in the countries that suffered directly a serious setback with the revival of capitalism witnessed a massive reversal in their political, economic, social and cultural circumstances, as happened with other peoples throughout the world.
Developments across the world in recent years, in the wake of the defeat of socialism, have further highlighted the historical significance of the achievements of socialism and its corresponding civilizational advancements. They have shown the superiority of its new social system in addressing the issues and bringing about peoples’ aspirations.
Those developments and the present circumstances have refuted those who had depicted capitalism as the “end of history” and presented it as the leading actor on a triumphant march towards universal democracy, free from wars and crises.
The nature of capitalism remains unchanged and it has proven that it could not and cannot address the grave problems that mankind faces. On the contrary, once freed and less constrained, it has confronted workers and peoples with the most brutal and inhuman consequences of its deeds.
Capitalism is presently in the grip of one of its most serious crises – a deep-seated structural crisis. It has nothing to offer to peoples other than the worsening of exploitation, unemployment, job insecurity, growing injustice and social inequality, an assault on social and labour rights, a denial of democratic rights and freedoms, the seizure and destruction of resources, interferences in and attacks against national sovereignty, militarism and wars.
Wars are indeed and increasingly imperialism’s response to the crisis of its system of exploitation and oppression. At present, millions of human beings are victims of imperialist aggressions and are forced to flee from wars and destruction. Whole peoples are being condemned to underdevelopment, dependency and national oppression.
These brutal consequences of capitalism on mankind show how exaggerated and extravagant were the claims of its supporters who, faced with the defeat of socialism, hurriedly presented it as the ultimate system in history.
Capitalism is unable to overcome the insoluble contradictions that are inherent to its “genetic code”. It is a system that is insatiable in its never-ending appropriation and accumulation of capital. As such, it is a system that permanently comes up against the needs, interests and aspirations of workers and peoples.
More than ever, socialism emerges with renewed relevance and as an imperative in the process of emancipation of workers and peoples. It is a paramount objective in PCP’s Political Programme.
It is a Political Programme that «proposes as basic goals for the socialist revolution in Portugal: abolishing the exploitation of man by man, creating a society without antagonistic classes and inspired by humanistic values, with democracy (with all its complementary facets: economic, social, political and cultural), the constant creative intervention of the masses in all aspects of the country’s affairs, constantly heightening the level of material and spiritual well-being of working people and of people generally, ending social discrimination, inequality, injustices and social scourges, effectively implementing equal rights for men and women and with the participation of youth in the country’s affairs as a dynamic and creative social force».
The contemporary relevance of socialism and its indispensability to address the issues faced by peoples across the world requires the consideration of a vast range of different solutions and stages in the revolutionary struggle. There are no “blueprints” for revolutions nor “ready-made models” for socialism, as PCP has always argued and Lenin wisely predicted when he said that all peoples would eventually achieve socialism but each would do it in its own way!
The Political Programme of our Party, the course for its implementation, the intermediate steps in the struggle for socialism and the corresponding objectives and alliances were designed on the basis of the Portuguese situation, while judiciously taking on board other revolutionary experiences worldwide .
Portugal experienced a revolution with far-reaching effects whose impact, experiences and values are still very much present in the struggles of our people. Thus, the socialist society that PCP proposes to our people involves a stage that we have described as an Advanced Democracy, itself an integral part of the struggle for socialism.
In its Political Programme «An Advanced Democracy – the April values in Portugal’s future», PCP states that the achievement of such a project will represent a process of in-depth transformations and developments that will address the specific need of Portuguese society in its current stage of historical development.
The enactment of our Political Programme is objectively in the interest of all workers and anti-monopoly classes and social groups. Its is a programme founded on the fundamental notion that democracy has to be concurrently political, economic, social and cultural in nature.
Our project for an Advanced Democracy and its execution are an integral part of our struggle for socialism. But they are also inseparable from our current struggle to defend, reinstate and achieve new rights, to break away from right-wing policies and to implement patriotic and left-wing policies. These struggles too are part of our struggle for socialism and of a process that does not separate but rather integrates into a coherent whole the different objectives of our combat.
It is a struggle that requires a Communist Party that does not abdicate from being what is is, that remains determined, combative, conscious of its role, unyielding in its ideal and resolute in the assertion of its transformative and revolutionary project, always aware that the ultimate goal of its actions and intervention is the establishment of a new society – socialism, a project for the future that is inseparable from mankind’s liberation and fulfilment.
There will be many issues and difficulties to overcome, but it is in socialism and not capitalism that workers and peoples will find the answers for their yearning for freedom, equality, justice, social progress and peace.
PCP is convinced that the future will be mastered with the struggles of workers and peoples and their internationalist solidarity. Having remained true to its liberating ideals and while striving to strengthen and to promote the unity of the communist and revolutionary movement, PCP will celebrate the Centennial Anniversary of the October Revolution and assert its unwavering resolve to fight so as to bring about socialism for the Portuguese people. We appeal to all those who support peace, justice and social progress and who fight for a free and prosperous society where the State and policies will be at the service of human beings, their well-being and happiness, to join us in these Centennial Celebrations.
Source: PCP via Solidnet / RedGlobe