People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 38

September 19, 2010


PCP’S Avante: A Festival of Politics


R Arun Kumar


THE 34th annual Avante festival, organised by the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) was held near Lisbon, Portugal on September 3-5, 2010. Thousands of people enthusiastically participated in the festival. The festival was not just a platform of cultural expression, but also a platform for serious political exchanges. The basic theme of this year’s festival was 'Commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the May 1st, the activity of the PCP in defence of the economic and political sovereignty; the struggle for peace and the denunciation of the imperialist offensive as well as the belicist purposes of the NATO Summit'. The PCP, as has been its practice, invited fraternal delegates from various communist and workers' parties across the world to share their views basically revolving around the theme of the festival. 69 representatives from 44 fraternal parties took part in the festival.


Jeronimo de Sosa, the general secretary of the PCP officially declared the festival open on the evening of  September 3, with a brief introduction about the tradition of the festival and its historical evolution. He stressed the importance of the festival in these times of global economic crisis and reiterated the PCP's commitment to struggle in defence of the rights of the toiling sections. He also introduced the candidate of the PCP for the presidential elections due early next year, Francisco Lopes. His inaugural speech was immediately followed by the singing of the festival anthem (the song of the PCP), the Internationale and the Portuguese national anthem.


The entire area where the festival was organised was broadly divided into four parts – the international arena, where the stalls of communist and workers parties of various countries were organised and debates on various international issues were held; the central pavilion, where the PCP Central Committee had its stall and the main debating venue was located; the area for the youth, where the Young Communist League had its pavilion and activities; and the rest of the area dotted with the stalls of various provincial committees of the PCP, that sold various local merchandise and gastronomical delicacies. Apart from the main stage, which hosted the major cultural events, there were many small stages that simultaneously hosted many cultural performances by various artists, who came from various parts of Portugal. There were separate stages for theatre and cinema too.




The entire infrastructure for all these pavilions, stalls and stages was erected by the members of the PCP through voluntary work and this included, digging holes, constructing the stages, providing electric a word, everything, in the true sense of the term. A separate committee responsible for the festival oversaw this entire process. It is this committee that allotted work to all the volunteers – party members from the branch to the Polit Bureau – directed and coordinated them. This, according to a member of the Polit Bureau of the party, helps understand the importance of collectivism, further strengthens the camaraderie spirit among the members of the party and puts to best use the skills and talents among the various members of the party. No wonder the festival even had its own security and health personnel – all party members.


Another interesting feature is the active participation of both the young and the old in all the activities of the festival, either in enjoying the cultural programmes or in taking an active role in the political debates. The debates were conceived in such a manner that they were not a one-way traffic – with the speaker expressing opinions and walking away. The audience took an active part in these debates, asked various questions related to the topic, debated and thus enriched the entire process. Wide ranging questions were asked during the debates pointing to the political awareness of the participants.


Politics and cultural aspects in the festival were intermingled to perfection. There is a distinct political message visible in the way the stalls and pavilions were constructed and decorated, the various exhibitions on the history of the Avante, (newspaper run by the PCP) and the history of the party itself. Cartoons explaining the causes and affects of the economic crisis were painted on many stalls and the merchandise sold in many of the stalls too was laden with a political message. And of course, the cultural performances too conveyed a political message to the audience. Thus, unlike many other 'festivals', this was thoroughly political in nature.




The PCP had organised a visit to a neighbouring municipality, Alcochete controlled by the coalition it heads. The delegation was welcomed by the party in-charge of the municipality, the president of the municipality and other members of its governing council. A brief power point presentation of the various developmental activities carried out by the municipality was made and the hardships faced by the municipality explained. The president of the municipality, Luis Miguel Carraca Franco detailed the growing importance of their municipality as a new international airport is being built in their neighbourhood. He had stated that resource crunch is one of the major problems that is hampering them from implementing all the promises they had made to the people. He explained that they are taking the people into confidence and are regularly talking with them by placing all the prospects and problems of carrying out developmental activities before them. This, he stated, is helping them not only in retaining the confidence of the people but also involving them in the developmental activities.


After a brief discussion with the municipal officials, a short tour around the municipality was organised for the delegation, taking them around the sites of various projects undertaken by the municipality. The visit to the municipality concluded with a lunch along with the workers of the municipality in one of their canteens. This visit helped the delegates to understand the efforts of the PCP in running a local body and how it is using the limited powers and resources at their disposal for the benefit of the society. It also helped the delegates understand how the PCP is maintaining live contacts with the people at the grass roots level.




The concluding session of the festival witnessed a huge mobilisation, with the entire festival arena wearing a red look. People thronged the area around the main stage, where the concluding session was held, holding aloft red flags of the PCP and the JCP (Juventude Comunista Portuguesa , the youth organisation of the PCP). Jeronimo de Sosa, the general secretary of the PCP brought the festival to an end with an elaborate concluding speech that dealt in depth about the global economic crisis, the political situation in Portugal, the imperialist attacks on the rights of the toiling people around the world and in particular about the increasing militarisation of the world and the expansion of NATO. He also brought to the notice of the people the bankruptcy of the policies of the current government led by the Socialist Party and pointed out that it is a shame that under their rule Lisbon is playing host to the NATO summit in November 2010. He exhorted the people to come out in large numbers on November 20 against the NATO summit and explained the importance of organising these protests.


Jeronimo de Sosa also dealt in detail about the tax concessions given to the rich, while at the same time imposing severe burdens on the common people and stated that the European Union is contemplating a proposal to vet the national budgets of all the member countries before they are placed for acceptance in their respective national legislatures. “This is a severe attack on the sovereignty of our countries and should be resisted with all our might”. In this background, he explained the decision of the PCP to field Francisco Lopes as its presidential candidate and said that it is for the defence of the constitution, (a product of the April Revolution that led to the collapse of dictatorship) and the rights of the working class.


Portuguese people, it seems, say 'there is no festival like the Avante festival' and indeed there is no exaggeration in this statement. The PCP uses the festival as a means to propagate its views and ideas and attract new members. There is a special counter in the PCP Central Committee pavilion where people who are interested in joining the party can fill in applications and deposit them with the volunteers there. These would be later followed up by the respective occupation/work based branches wherein members go to the residences of the interested people, discuss with them, involve them in their activities and after thorough evaluation decide if they can be given membership of the party.


The PCP also uses the festival to educate and prepare the people for action. Thus, the festival ended with a call for mobilising working class for militant actions against the increasing burdens on September 29 and against NATO on November 20 and called upon the people to vote for the PCP presidential candidate Francisco Lopes in the upcoming elections.