Portuguese communist festival, 2018

In the first week of September the Communist Party of Ireland sent a delegation to the Avante festival in Portugal. The festival is sponsored by Avante! the weekly paper of the Portuguese Communist Party, and is held each year in the first week of September.

The PCP takes its international duties very seriously. It showed great hospitality and respect to its international guests, fifty-eight in total, who came from all continents. There was equal respect shown to parties that are in power as to smaller parties. The festival presents an opportunity for all to come together in the spirit of comradeship, to learn from each other’s experiences.

The festival took place from Friday to Sunday, with attendance being in the hundreds of thousands over the weekend.

Delegates are picked up from the airport and taken to their hotel, taking in the environs of Lisbon on the way. Advertisements for the festival are to be seen all over the city, especially in working-class areas. It is clear that the festival is a big event, with work being done almost all year by party members and supporters. The level of work done is partly the reason that the festival continues to grow bigger and bigger, with a newly acquired space being opened two years ago.

The festival was opened on the Friday by the general secretary of the PCP, Jerónimo de Sousa, with the JCP, the communist youth, putting on an impressive display. The PCP anthem was sung, as was the “International,” in different languages by people of all colours, kicking the festival off.

The strength of the festival lies in its diversity. Some come for the political debates, others for the food and drink, some for the music and cultural events. All the events have some form of politics in them. One event I saw that stuck out was an act of theatre that had two contenders mimicking a boxing match, one contestant playing the EU, the other the people of Greece. It was clear what the political point being made was!

On Saturday delegates were brought to the municipality of Setúbal, which is run by the PCP. We were informed by the communist mayor how this municipality was infamous for its corruption until the PCP registered its success here, with the party’s representatives known for their competence.

The Saturday night is the busiest time of the festival. Virtually the entire grounds were filled with people. On the main stage, named in honour of the revolution of April 1974 that overthrew fascism, a Palestinian rock band played to thousands. In the international section there were political debates on the future of capitalism, the Middle East, and the EU.

Stalls offering food, drink, badges and souvenirs were set up by delegations from Cuba, Iran, Catalunya, Palestine, Cyprus, Greece, Angola, Brazil, Turkey, and more. Murals made political statements on Venezuela, Palestine and the Korean peninsula and also highlighted the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx.

On Sunday delegates attended a meeting with the PCP leadership, which gave an overview of events in Portugal and the role of the PCP, with an open floor for comrades to make contributions and share their own experiences. Interpreters were provided by the PCP at all stages of the festival, showing the level of resources the party has in its ranks.

Delegates then attended the mass rally, which had speeches from the Young Communist Movement, a member of the PCP Central Committee, and the general secretary, with tens of thousands packing the surrounding area to listen. The front of the main stage was a sea of red flags, the LGBT rainbow flag, Palestinian flags, and others, being waved by young and old, men and women.

The Avante festival is an example of what a socialist society can look like, what can be achieved through collective struggle and solidarity. It gives a model for what we seek to achieve. It gives the opportunity to share and learn from the experiences of delegates, whether from parties in power, such as Cuba, China, Laos, Viet Nam, and the DPRK, and mass parties, such as those from Portugal, Greece, France, and Spain, as well as parties such as the CPI—the only party to represent Ireland and the experience of the Irish working class at the festival.

This allowed us the ability to share our experiences in the struggle to repeal the 8th Amendment, the fight against water charges, and the continuing struggle for universal public housing. In particular, the role of the EU and other imperialist centres was shown, as was the necessity to build an anti-imperialist alliance and build workers’ power.