Article by Vera Polycarpou, member of the Central Committee of AKEL, Head of the International Relations Bureau of the C.C. of AKEL
Sunday 10th September 2017, “HARAVGI” newspaper
The Festival of “AVANTE” is a great mass event that lasts for three days with the participation of many thousands of people of all ages from all corners of Portugal.
It is a Festival in which and through it the ongoing struggles of working people, youth, farmers and women in the country are highlighted and strengthened.
It is a Festival in which the political struggle meets culture, and where culture is at the disposal of its visitors.
It is a Festival that honors all those who gave their lives in the decades of struggle against the dictatorship and for democracy during the Red Carnation Revolution of April 1974, such as Bento António Gonçalves, the General Secretary of the Portuguese Communist Party, who was imprisoned in the concentration camp in Tarrafal where he died of sickness in 1942.
The Festival of “AVANTE” is a Festival of international solidarity and support towards the struggling peoples around the world; a Festival that inspires the struggles for a better tomorrow.
The Festa do Avante!, the Festival of the newspaper of the Portuguese Communist Party “Avante”, has been held every year since 1976, just two years after the fall of the fascist dictatorship. Over the years, this annual event has grown and established deep roots, given that it now has its own huge area, farm lands in Seixal, belonging to it on the banks of the Tagus River across from Lisbon. One might wonder how this Festival established so many roots among the people and how it continues today when there is an attempt to vilify mass organized struggles and political action and indeed in a Portugal that is plagued by the economic crisis.
From the experience of the participation of AKEL’s delegations, we can say that the Festival of “AVANTE” is a genuine people’s festival that is built by the people, for the people. Each year, for around three months, hundreds of men and women of all ages work voluntarily to set up stands, tents, exhibitions, restaurants, the International Space and organize the whole program.
During the 3 days of the Festival, thousands of volunteers work tirelessly and unselfishly so that it operates in the best possible way. This whole process is a great school of comradeship and represents a coming together of various generations. And all the members and cadres of the Portuguese Communist Party, from its General Secretary right down to its youngest members, “graduate” from this school, but also ordinary supporters and friends who support the Festival which has become a custom.
This year the 100th anniversary of the October Socialist Revolution had a central position in the whole program. The victory of the Revolution in 1917, the role of Lenin’s party, the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union, the victory against Hitler’s fascist hordes and the achievements made in all fields were transferred to the visitor through a remarkable exhibition, as a counter-weight to the destructive development of capitalism that is abolishing working people’s gains and rights, provoking wars, uprooting people and spreading misery. Together with the exhibitions and stands, discussions were also organized with the participation of cadres of PCP and academics, but also representatives of Communist Parties from countries such as Cuba, Russia and Vietnam.
The Festival of “AVANTE” hosts the only Biennale of Plastic Arts in Portugal, with the participation of the most renowned artists in the country. At the same time, the program includes opera, theatre plays, cinema, book fairs, and many other exhibitions. There is a big children’s playground and a sports area where, amongst others, traditional games are organized, but if you wish you can even practice yoga. From the main festival stage and all the other stages and platforms, one can enjoy dozens of groups, bands and performers of all kinds of music, ranging from the traditional Portuguese fado music to hip-hop. We cannot but mention the exceptional presence of the Lisbon Symphony Orchestra, the Symphony Choir and the Lisboa Cantat group, with a program devoted especially to the October Revolution. Throughout these three days, the Festival is a cultural feast at a very affordable price and is the only opportunity for thousands of working families to enjoy this cultural creation.
As is the case every year stands and kiosks operate in the Festival grounds run by all the PCP district and regional party organizations, presenting local problems and the Party’s proposals, projecting their own local culture and gastronomy. A stroll in these stands gives you the opportunity to get to know in a special way the people and culture of every corner of Portugal. And the Portuguese people smiling and open-hearted transmit the joy of this Festival, such as comrade Josephina from the city of Aveiro, who in the patisserie section of the Aveiro party stand treated us to ovos moles the traditional sweet which the Portuguese love and which is made from egg yolks with water and a lot of sugar!
For the 10th consecutive year, AKEL took part in the International section of the Festival with its own stand which functioned thanks to the participation of volunteer members of AKEL. Through the stand, we were given the opportunity to talk with many visitors, highlighting mainly our people’s struggle to end the Turkish occupation and reunify our homeland and people.
It is worth pointing out that the Cyprus problem is not unfamiliar to the Festival of “AVANTE” and this is precisely due to the practical and consistent solidarity expressed by the Portuguese Communist Party, the Communist Youth of Portugal (JCP) and the peace movement of the Portuguese Council for Peace and Cooperation (CPPC). AKEL participated together with other parties in the debate “No to the federalist, neo-liberal and militarist EU, for a Europe of Peace of cooperation and progress”, which provided another opportunity for an exchange of views to be held on these vital issues for the peoples of EU member-states.
This year 58 delegations from 44 countries participated in the Festival. Speaking to the delegations of foreign parties and movements, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of PCP Jerónimo de Sousa said that without their presence the Festival of “AVANTE” would not be the same, because the Festival is a celebration of internationalist solidarity and friendship, indispensable components necessary for the peace that so many people are striving for; peoples who are confronted with the increasing aggression of the imperialist forces, the United States, as well as the constantly ever more militarized foreign policy of the European Union.
The mass presence of young people is very strong which is growing ahead of the forthcoming struggles in the local elections due to take place in October in which PCP, through its alliance with other forces, will campaign for by presenting candidates throughout the whole of Portugal with a program that meets the needs of local societies and which finds great resonance among the people.
The Festival of “AVANTE” ended with the organization of a mass rally with Jerónimo de Sousa as the main speaker who outlined the positions and proposals of PCP on the political economic and social situation, whilst he also made an extensive reference to the international situation that unfortunately we cannot present in this article.
The next Festival of “AVANTE” will be held in the first days of September 2018, in which AKEL will again be present.