3 IMCWP, Contribution of Portuguese Communist Party

6/22/01 12:58 PM
  • Portugal, Portuguese Communist Party 3rd IMCWP En Europe Communist and workers' parties

Portuguese Communist Party
by Manuela Bernardino

PROBLEMS AND PERSPECTIVES OF THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT

The initiative of the comrades from the Communist Party of
Greece of holding this Meeting to discuss the issues
concerning the problems of the Trade Union movement and the
role of the communists has, in our view, great actuality
and interest

The issues that we propose to approach have an
extraordinary importance for the present and future
evolution of the struggle of the working class and all
workers, for the preservation and affirmation of the class
nature of the Communist Parties, their link with the
working masses.

There has been a great ideological battle for years around
the role and the nature of the Trade Union movement, its
forms of organization and struggle, the role of the working
class and the workers in the struggle for great social
changes, the intervention of the communists in the trade
union movement, together with (or as a support) a set of
practical measures taken by the employers and their
governments, be they socialist or of the right or one and
the other, to weaken and limit the trade union organization
and intervention, in a conjunction of direct repressive
measures with others so-called democratic, aiming to
integrate the trade union movement within the system of the
domination of the great capital.

All this, which can be seen and attested by daily
experience, has a very simple explanation. The trade union
movement continues to be the social organization of the
masses, the largest organization of the working class and
the workers in general, that is, of the more organized and
more determined forces in the struggle against
exploitation, the forces that are at the centre of the
class struggle of labour against capital.

The reality of the Portuguese trade union movement, or that
of any other, is strongly marked from its birth and
development, by the levels of capitalist development, the
co-relation of forces between labour and capital, the
experiences and traditions of the struggle of the workers,
the higher or lesser degree of influence of the
revolutionary or reformist trends within the working class
movement, the degree of the existence or absence of
democratic freedoms, the permanent changes operated in the
productive forces and the entry of new layers in
employment.

From the Portuguese reality and experience, it is now
important to address three ideas, as they constitute
nuclear issues, decisive in the definition of our party
guidelines

 

One idea is that we consider the trade union movement an
organization which is necessary and indispensable in the
organization, consciousness and mobilization of the workers
as an autonomous force in the struggle for the defence of
their interests and against exploitation.

Another idea is that the class nature of the trade union
movement, its combativeness, link with the workers and
their unity is not separable from the decisive influence of
the communists at all levels of the trade union movement.

Lastly, in a dialectic connection we also conclude that the
influence of the Communist Party among the workers, its
capacity of mobilization and affirmation as a revolutionary
vanguard, not in theory, but in fact, is not possible
without the Party's strong positions in the trade union
movement and the workplaces.

It is in this light that one should see the attention paid
by my Party, even in the Congress resolutions, to the
problems of the trade union movement and which, among the
great multiplicity of the tasks and political
responsibilities of the Party, lead us to consider this
field of work as of priority.

The Portuguese Trade Union movement was decisively marked
in its historical development by some essential factors,
namely, the practical absence of any reformist influence
within the working class movement and trade unions (the
Socialist Party dissolved after the implantation of fascism
and did not have any roots in the working class movement as
well); the decisive influence recognized by the masses of
the Marxist Leninist ideological current, the Party
guideline set in 1935 and which was carried out till the
end of fascism, of intervening within the fascist unions, a
directive which enabled strong unions to avoid its
influence and domination, and of founding, in the middle of
the dictatorship and in the absence of trade union freedom,
the trade union central. And lastly, the 25th. April
revolution which restored political and trade union
freedoms, enabled an explosive development of the Trade
Union movement and Workers' Committees, elected in the
workplaces, with specific rights and duties, structures
that had an essential role in the deepening of the
revolutionary process, in the deep social and economic
changes, in the long struggle to defend many of these
conquests.

 

For more than 20 years there has been a powerful social,
economic, political and ideological offensive against the
trade union movement and the Portuguese workers, an
offensive that, being a very concrete expression of the
exploitative nature of capitalism, has been strongly marked
by the advances of the counter-revolutionary process, the
reconstitution and strengthening of the power of the great
economic and financial groups that were destroyed with the
April Revolution, the liquidation of important democratic
conquests, the limitation of the rights and the freedoms of
the workers, making continuous changes in labour
legislation, always having as guideline the restoration of
a legal framework of labour relations favourable to the
employers' domination.

 

The social and economic changes are extremely unfavourable
to the workers and create serious difficulties to the trade
union organisation There is a general precariousness in the
labour market, comprising the professional conditions,
labour status, wages and working hours. As to unemployment,
turned massive and chronic, there is an increasing weight
of long-term unemployment.

The destruction or reduction of labour gatherings of a high
concentration and strong trade union and Party influence,
resulting from the privatisations and industrial
restructuring, have significantly weakened the organized
base of the trade union movement.

The changes brought about in employment resulting from the
technological changes, the modifications carried out in the
economic activities and structures, particularly affect the
areas that due to the large concentration of workers, great
class conscience, experience in struggles, were the more
solid part of the Trade Union movement.

The composition of the wage earners underwent great
changes. While the numbers of the wage earners increases
extraordinarily, they become more heterogeneous, in their
role in production, their labour status, and age and sex
composition. The wage earning condition of intermediate
layers creates a type of workers where the objective
situation in the process of exploitation and the subjective
understanding of their condition do not coincide.

 

The issues expressed, to which others could be added, make
clear the difficulties and vastness of problems and
challenges facing the trade union movement, but
difficulties do not mean impossibilities. The PCP continues
to believe that the trade union movement, if founded on its
basic values, has every condition to be equal to its
responsibilities and overcome its difficulties, fight the
theories of those who consider spent this form of the
workers' organization and of those who have lost faith in
the struggle and the role of the workers and considered
class struggle to be part of the ideological archaeology,
and in practice defend the submission of labour to capital.

 

The Trade Union movement as a class organisation
corresponds to an objective necessity of the workers
getting organised to face exploitation of labour by
capital, exploitation that at the present stage of
capitalist development does not lessen, but rather
intensifies and reaches increasing layers.

The social basis of the trade union intervention changes
but does not get restricted, increasingly widens with the
continuous growth of paid labour in new areas and layers of
the population, widening the mobilization field for the
struggle with the integration of new layers of workers.

This is a reality confirmed by the development of the
Portuguese trade union movement assembled around CGTP-IN,
the real trade union central of the Portuguese workers.

In the last years many new trade unions, in several sectors
of activity, were founded, several others carried out great
restructuring processes in order to answer new realities
and significant steps were taken to make the workers
understand the importance of the class organizations.

During the past year, confirming a trend begun in 1997,
there was a new wave of trade union membership, with around
60,000 new enrolments, with about 50% of women and 25,000
young workers with less than 30 years. This holds an
important meaning insofar as the working youth (the youth
with less than 25 years of age constitutes more than 1/3 of
the paid workforce) increasingly participates in the mass
actions, and represent an enormous potential of
rejuvenation, organic strengthening and combative force of
the trade union and workers' movement.

Still more surprising is the fact that, in spite of the
efforts of the employers to limit or even forbid trade
union organization in the workplace, during the year 2000,
the base trade union organization was strengthened with the
election of 5,000 new direct representatives of the trade
unions in the workplace.

The strengthening of the base trade union organization is
doubly vital for the future of the trade union movement. On
one hand, it is an essential condition for the
participation of the workers in the life of their class
organizations, without which trade union democracy would be
empty, for the mobilization and enlightenment of the
workers and for the control of the top leadership's
activity. On the other, it is equally essential to
guarantee the financial independence of the trade union
movement, without which there is no class independence. It
was during a Socialist Party (PS) government that, while
forbidding the direct deduction of the trade union dues in
the workplaces, with the confessed purpose of �breaking the
backbone of the trade union movement�, it was clearly
understood that the financial pressures could be a way for
the submission of the trade union movement.

During the year 2000, the trade union movement collected 6
million contos in dues (conto= 1,000$00), around 30 million
Euros or 25,379 million dollars.

We, the Portuguese communists, will do all we can to help
the trade union movement to overcome its difficulties,
strengthen and intensify its action. Meanwhile, there are
two issues we would like to approach in a more detailed
way.

The first concerns the main duty of the trade union
movement, which is the claim struggle, either to counter
grievous measures against the workers, or to improve their
situation. Besides, the employers understand quite well
that the trade union struggle is a barrier to the permanent
and persistent action of the employers to belittle the
force of labour.

The theories that tend to favour that which they call the �
propositive posture�, �dialogue�, �participation in the
institutions�, �social agreement�, make a set of basic
mistakes. Participation and struggle are not opposed, on
the contrary. Only the struggle can raise the participation
even though, taking into account the class nature of the
political power, it is a rostrum to denounce and counter
anti-worker policies. The Portuguese unitary trade union
movement never signed any social agreement pact. Not as a
matter of principle, but because the very logic of the
Social Pacts aims to paralyse the struggle of the trade
union movement and the workers. It was through mass
struggle that the Social Pacts established with the
divisionist forces were paralysed and the influence and
prestige of the trade union movement strengthened.
The articulation between economic and political claims, the
actions within the companies, on the streets and with the
organs of power are of vital importance for the defence of
the interests of the workers.

A second issue is related to what some call �globalizing
resistance�

The processes of the internationalisation of capital, the
increasing domination of the multinationals, the processes
of integration, the proliferation of the international
regulation mechanisms of the division of labour make it
necessary to strengthen and improve forms of
internationalist cooperation and solidarity. The
initiatives such as those which took place during the
European Union Summits, when associated with concrete
problems of the workers, can have an important role. On the
other hand, we continue to believe that this line of work
should not superimpose upon the struggle in each country, a
field where there is direct confrontation with
exploitation, a field where the main class struggles take
place, a field where the mobilization of the workers is
determining to combat capitalist exploitation. The class
battles at the level of each country are a contribution and
a responsibility of each detachment of the working class
movement towards the general struggle.

The role, influence, prestige and combativeness of the
Portuguese trade union movement assembled around CGTP-IN,
is not separable from its essential characteristics, namely
the class, mass and democratic nature, the functioning and
involvement of the workers, unitary in its political and
ideological composition, and a consequent and permanent
action in defence of the interests of the workers.

The Portuguese trade union movement which in many aspects
represents a unique case of the Portuguese working class
movement's heritage, and also of the action and
intervention of the communist trade unionists.

The communists, being a large majority of the trade union
leaders at all levels, from the Unions to the
Confederation, are the most influential
political-ideological force of the trade union movement.
Meanwhile, it should be noted as relevant that this
influence, recognized and accepted by the workers and our
allies, derives from the fact that the communists occupy
these positions by being elected by their labour
companions, as a result of standing out as the more active
and consequent defenders of the interests and rights of the
workers.

One of the lines which is unfolded aiming to
de-characterize and weaken the combativeness of the trade
union movement, has been based upon the questioning of the
role of the communist militants in the trade union
movement, under an alleged defence of trade union autonomy
and independence.

 

The Portuguese Communist Party, as the Party of the working
class and the workers, does not renounce taking stands and
guidelines on the trade union movement, guidelines that
appear in the resolution of the Central Committee and our
Congresses. The Party Statutes decree precise rules to be
followed by the militants who intervene in the trade union
movement, as well as in the mass movements in general,
rules which bind the Party members to act in accordance
with the Party's guidelines in defence of the interest of
the masses, defending and observing the autonomy, unitary
character and democratic life of the mass organizations and
movements, opposing actions which do not take into account
the responsibility of the communists towards the masses, as
actions which delude the responsibility towards the Party.
These are clear principles, which oppose any idea of
mistaking autonomy and independence for lack of politicism
or the communists' renunciation of this position when
intervening in mass movements and the trade union movement
in particular.

Trade union autonomy and independence, as we understand and
defend, are expressed by the ability of the trade union
organizations of defining through their organs and own
regulatory rules, the objectives and actions in view of the
employers, the State, religious confessions and Political
Parties.

A matter of principle defining the autonomy and
independence is the capacity of the trade unions to decide
their guidelines in view of the interests of the workers,
without caving in to ideological pressures foreign to their
class interests, a principle guaranteed by the
participation of the communists.

The lines of work that the PCP has been undertaking to
strengthen its link with the workers are of great
importance for the strengthening of the Party, and even
more when the class enemies try to convey conformism,
present capitalism as the best possible world, prevent the
understanding of the mechanisms of exploitation, separate
social action from political action.
The organization of the Party in the workplaces is
determining for the elevation of social and class
conscience, the elevation of the workers' political
conscience and of support to the PCP.

The strengthening of the Party's influence with the workers
will always contribute to the strengthening of the trade
union movement.

In our 14th Congress (1992) we concluded that �the
influence of the communists in the trade union movement is,
under the present conditions, a determining factor of
CGTP-IN's strength, independence, class conscience and mass
influence. The workers are vitally interested that it
should remain so�.

 

The evolution of the national life confirms the truth of
this guideline. Aware of its responsibilities towards the
workers and the country, the Portuguese Communist Party
will continue to intervene to strengthen the trade union
movement.