People's Democracy

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


No. 49

December 05, 2004



An Important Landmark In Party’s History

Sitaram Yechury


THE 17th Congress of the Portuguese Communist Party was held from November 26 to 28, 2004 in the municipality of Almada bordering the Portuguese capital Lisbon. Readers will recall that the PCP had played a historic role in the struggle against the dictatorship in Portugal which lasted for over three decades. Even after the defeat of its elder twin in Spain – the dictatorial regime of Franco – the dictatorship in Portugal continued. The country and the people were finally liberated in April 1974. The PCP therefore has a long history in the struggle for the restoration of democracy in Portugal. Hence, unlike in many other European countries, the democratic credentials of the Communist Party have never been suspect or target of attack by the reactionary forces.


Almada has a pride of place in this historic struggle of the Portuguese people. It has continuously been a communist stronghold and even today has a communist mayor – a lady mayor. This is one of the eighteen municipalities out of the 209 in which the communists have a clear majority and hold the mayorship. In many others, alongwith other Left allies, they control local bodies.


The Congress convened under the slogan “With the PCP – Democracy & Socialism: A Portugal with a Future”. In all 62 fraternal communist and workers parties from 47 countries attended the Congress as fraternal delegates.


The Congress was attended by 1307 elected delegates on the principle of one delegate for every 75 members. The class composition of the delegates revealed the character of the Party. Working class and white collar employees constituted 58 per cent. In addition another 26 per cent belonged to the intellectual section. Of these nearly a fifth have joined the Party after the last 16th Congress. Significant is the fact that nearly 23 per cent of the new entrants were women.


The Party Congress was meeting under rather difficult circumstances. In all spheres – international, European, domestic and inner-Party – there were serious problems that needed to be addressed. In a candid manner the Party Congress resolution summed up the situation as follows:


“Since the 16th Party Congress, we have continued to live in an unfavourable international situation, which is reflected in new advances in the aggressiveness of imperialism and of capitalist forces and in negative developments in the process of European integration. Meanwhile, on the domestic level, the right wing policies continued during the socialist government and were stepped up with the reactionary PSD/CDS-PP government, as was the offensive to distort the democratic regime that was born with the April revolution. At the same time, there was a convergent campaign, which incorporated the factionalist activities, targeting the Party, aimed at breaking it up, distorting its proposals, positions and activity.”


The inner Party discussions on these issues were held before the Congress began as early as February 2004. After over six months, these discussions continued with over 1100 amendments being considered from the cadre. Finally the Congress was the culmination of this inner party discussion where many important decisions concerning the Party’s line as well as organisational structure were taken. (the details of these will be discussed next week)


Following  adoption of the main documents of the Congress through an open ballot (only 2 delegates voted against the main resolution) the Congress elected a new central committee and the office bearers. A 176 member central committee was elected. Of these 27 are below the age of 30. There is also a significant increase in the representation of women. The Congress also elected a 22 member political commission and a 10 member secretariat.  The former general secretary Carvalhos was elected to the central committee but not as the general secretary. The newly elected general secretary is Jeronimo Carvalho de Sousa. He is the leader of the metallurgical workers having joined the working class at the age of 14. Carvalhos in his farewell speech underlined that his stepping down does not mean that he is saying goodbye. In his concluding speech to the Congress the new general secretary stated that there are multifold challenges that the Party had to face in the days to come but he underlined that difficulties do not mean impossibilities!


All through the three days as is the trait of the Portuguese communists, the Congress would continuously witness enthusiastic sloganeering and militant display of communist fervour. Clearly, this Congress culminated from intense inner Party debate and discussion as an important landmark in the contemporary history of the Portuguese Communist Party.