People's Democracy

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


No. 49

December 14, 2008


18th Congress Of The Portuguese Communist Party

Tapan Sen

THE 18th congress of the Portuguese Communist Party was held on from November 29 to December 1, 2008 in the Portuguese capital Lisbon.
The congress was convened under the slogan “For April, for Socialism, for a Stronger Party”. “April” denotes the great April Revolution by Portuguese working class and the masses of the people together in the People-MFA (Armed Forces Movement) alliance -- a long heroic struggle which culminated in ending of 48 years of fascist dictatorship in Portugal with the adoption of the Constitution of a democratic republic on April 2, 1976. The PCP had been an essential and determining political force. But according to PCP’s analysis, all the targets with which the revolutionary process started are not yet achieved and many of the gains of the revolution are being destroyed by the successive ruling combinations pursuing a right wing policy of restoration of monopoly capitalism with its attendant fallout in subversion and undermining of democratic and social rights and aggravation of exploitation. The 18th congress’s call for carrying forward the struggle for the unfinished tasks of April revolution towards transformation of the society to end the exploitative regime and preparing the party to take on the tasks is reflected in the theme.      
In all, 58 fraternal communist and workers parties from 45 countries attended the congress as fraternal delegates. From India, Tapan Sen attended the congress representing the CPI(M).

The congress was attended by 1461 delegates on the principle of one delegate for every 50 members, elected by 590 electoral assemblies of the party members at the unit level. The class composition of the delegates revealed the character of the party. Fifty eight per cent delegates are workers from both industry and services while 60.4 per cent delegates are organisers in mass organisations and movements. Of the total delegates, 26.7 per cent are women. Among the delegates those who joined the party after the 17th congress were 228. A significant 36.3 per cent of the delegates hold public office in various local or central government bodies. Among the delegates those below 40 years comprised 32.5 per cent while the average age of the entire congress delegation is 47.8 years.

The congress elected a 159 member central committee, a 19 member Polit Bureau, a 9 member secretariat and 7 member control commission. Jeronimo de Sousa was re-elected general secretary of the party unanimously.


The congress is held as a culmination of inner party deliberation on the content of the draft political resolution which started as back as February 2008. As reported in the congress, around 26,000 members have been directly involved in this pre-Congress inner party exercises and exchanges on the political resolution based on which the draft political resolution presented in the congress has been given a final shape. The party while candidly recognising the difficult times and challenges being faced by the communist movement both nationally and internationally, expressed with confidence and clarity its goals. The draft political resolution begins saying, “The 18th congress is held in a highly unstable international situation, one full of uncertainty, with one prominent and especially characteristic feature—an ongoing large scale economic and financial crisis in the capitalist system that is sweeping the world. In spite of the setbacks it has suffered, imperialism’s fierce offensive exhibits no sign of retreat. On the contrary, its essential features – exploitation, oppression, militarism and war – are becoming more marked…. But it is conditioned by its own difficulties and contradictions. Everywhere, resistance and struggle continues and is becoming more diverse in form and content. A rearrangement of force is underway…While it does have contradictory aspects, it questions US hegemony and US goals of world domination…. The tragedy that the capitalist reproduction system constitutes for the world, and the obvious crisis that the capitalist system is suffering, highlight the need for communist parties and for international cooperation among them, and highlights the topicality of their project: building a new society, freed from the exploitation of man by man – socialism – as the only alternative to capitalism. Tenacity in building the vanguard revolutionary parties and steadfastness in the ideological struggle have – in the current circumstances  -- acquired a greater, decisive importance.” 

While analysing the real character of the ongoing financial crisis which exposed the almost irreversible decadence of the capitalist order, and also commenting on the efforts of the capitalists to bail themselves out through various means, the political resolution sharply pointed out the bankrupt approach of the so-called social democrats in their seeking to find a solution to the crisis within the same neo-liberal capitalist model. The resolution stressed upon the urgency for a political and ideological battle against such trends and noted in clear terms, “ It is imperative to take the offensive in the battle of ideas, drawing the necessary political and ideological conclusions from the economic-financial crisis that originated in USA. The crisis is opening a deep crack in neo-liberal fundamentalism and technocracy. It is a strong blow against the triumphant capitalist rhetoric of the 90s, following socialism’s defeats…. Capitalism’s response to the crisis it confronts is tending towards increasingly violent display of force. While not absolutely ruled out, capitalism’s margin for manoeuvre using Keynesian type reformist solution is limited. Even Social-Democracy, which has in the past implemented them, is increasingly intertwined with big-business and with imperialism’s most reactionary and aggressive policies. It is a dangerous illusion to think that it will be possible to respond to workers’ and peoples’ yearnings to save humankind from terrible upheavals and civilisational throwbacks, without touching big-business’s economic and political power or the dictatorship of finance capital. Only far reaching anti-monopolist and anti-capitalist changes – imposed and defended by the masses – can achieve that.” 

While noting the intensification of imperialist offensive and proliferation of attacks on international laws and sovereignty of states since its 17th congress, PCP’s political theses pointed out that militarisation of international relations has been the major aspect of imperialist offensive in recent years leading to frequency of imperialist wars of occupation as an important tool in the hands of biggest capitalist powers.

The resolution also pointed out the fascist-leaning concepts contained in the “National Security Strategy of United States of America”, later adopted by NATO and the European Union, and noted in clear terms that “This militaristic and ‘security’ offensive is backed up with talk about fighting global terrorism. Terrorism in all its forms is very much contrary to workers’ and peoples’ interests. Both history and current events show that it is imperialism and its policies that promote and nourish terrorism to later invoke it to create a false dichotomy between security and freedom, as well as to strengthen the repressive component of States and to snoop on and control citizens’ lives and social relations.” 

Analysing the events during the intervening period and its basic features, the resolution stressed upon the crucial importance of the anti-imperialist content of the activities and struggles by the Left and progressive forces and recorded a note of caution as well as optimism. It said, “Events have shown that – if unchecked – imperialism’s offensive can jeopardise humankind’s existence. This must not be underestimated. At the same time, those dangers coexist with strong resistance by workers and peoples, and with real potential for progressive and even revolutionary development.”

The political resolution also demonstrated a firm unambiguous position of the PCP about the dangerous face of the project of so called ‘European Union’ being sought to be projected as a tool to counter “the excesses of globalisation” and an obstacle to “US unilateralism” by its protagonists and their lackeys in the social democrats and so called ‘European Left’. This has been a burning issue before the PCP as they have been confronting different opportunist trends among variety of political forces in the European continent seeking to coincide with the strategy of the European ruling class for so called European consolidation including proposition for convergence in so called  ‘Left wing Europeanism’ as a single entity to represent in European parliament relegating the nation state entity to the background. This is as good as joining the project of consolidation of European capitalists in the European Union. While terming the European Union project as tool of Europe’s big business and big capitalist powers to assert as an imperialist block, thereby exploding the theory of ‘countering the excess of globalisation’ and ‘obstacling the US unilateralism’  the Resolution noted, “ What in effect is happening – and at a surprising pace – is an intensification and refinement of exploitation and big-business’s power. In the immediate term – both directly and via NATO – the alliance with the USA is being strengthened and there is an aggressive interventionism.”  The resolution asserted the firm rejection by PCP of any process that would reinforce the federal nature of the EU institutions and consequently the domination of big powers in the decision making processes, any process that undermines democracy, sovereignty and national independence.  It recorded its disdain to the so called Left Block “with its so called ‘left wing Europeanism’ which conceals its covert federalism, confirms itself as one of the political forces that favours the advance of EU’s supranational nature, devaluing and ignoring the key importance of preserving national sovereignty as one of the main pillars for the development of the country and as an indispensable tool in the struggle for a different Europe.”   And the path towards another different Europe is envisioned by PCP as one that “can be opened up and consolidated by an intransigent struggle against the capitalist integration configured by European Union, by opposing each new step to further it, through convergence of leftwing and progressive forces, by raising the awareness and mobilisation of the workers and the peoples, for progressive transformation towards a socialist future for Europe” instead of a “militarist European Union, a political-military bloc with imperialist ambitions”.  

The resolution also dealt in detail on the offensive by the present government of Portugal led by the right wing Socialist Party (PS) targeted against the PCP in particular and the mass struggles waged by the PCP and various mass organisations against the right wing policies of privatisation of public services, curtailing the public health care facilities in favour of private business, paving way for commercialisation of education through gradual devaluing of a free and state-run education system, curtailing the social security benefits, changing labour laws in favour of capital, pro-monopolist economic policies etc. The latest onslaught is the enactment of a law on funding of the political parties which seeks to restrain/obstacle the political party from raising funds from the people through various mass activities. PCP is the main target against which the law is directed to, since all other parties like PS, PSD, CDS etc in the country mainly live on the funding by the government.


The intervening period also witnessed numerous mass actions led by PCP, the trade unions led by CGTP-IN and other mass organisations which include strikes and mass mobilisations in different parts of the states drawing support of several thousands of workers and toiling people, students, youth, teachers, farmers etc. Two days after the conclusion of the 18th congress, on December 3, 2008 around 1,20,000 teachers went for a day’s strike throughout the country against the autocratic move of the Govt to alter service conditions of the teachers.  All these struggles led to expansion of PCP’s influence among the Portuguese society and also have drawn various left and progressive forces in the joint front of struggle with PCP and also in electoral battle. This process augmented PCP’s intervening capacity in the national politics as well as its representation in the local government and the Portuguese parliament. PCP is the third largest party in Portuguese parliament having 12 members. PCP has also a substantial presence in the local self governments and municipalities. In 18 out of 209 municipalities in Portugal, the communists have absolute majority and hold the mayor’s post. In many others, communists along with their left and progressive allies run the municipal government. The year 2009 is again going to witness the elections in the local bodies and also for Portuguese parliament. Around the same time European parliament is also going to be reconstituted through elections. The congress has given a call to prepare for these forthcoming political struggles.

The congress has also evaluated the expansion of PCP’s organisation and influence which marked a great advance since the last party congress. The membership strength of the party has risen to 58,928 as reported in the congress. The number is sizable for a country having only around 10 million population. The recruitment to party since the last congress has increased by 7200 — highest in the last two decades. The age profile of the total party membership is fairly young with 15.9 per cent under 40 years and around 49.3 per cent being between 41 to 64 years and 29.7 per cent are women.

The congress witnessed intense debate on the draft political resolution and 120 delegates took the floor during the two and half day session of the congress and made important contribution in strengthening formulations made in the resolution. The congress unanimously adopted the resolution with 50 amendments suggested by the delegates. The two and half day deliberation witnessed rapt attention by the entire congress delegation with almost every speech and contribution having been responded to by loud applauds and militant sloganeering – “A Luta Continua” – meaning “ the struggle will continue”.    
The 18th congress of PCP concluded with an optimistic note of confidence to build a stronger party to continue the struggle for carrying forward the unfinished agenda of April Revolution, intensifying the struggle against the right wing policies and their fall-outs on peoples lives and democratic rights and institutions while consciously incorporating the struggle for immediate goals into the wider goal of thorough-going anti-capitalist change remaining steadfast in principles and convictions. The congress expressed clarity about the “change” to be striven for: Indeed the world changes, every day, but as a result of action and struggles of workers and people. Because they, together with the class struggle that is growing more intense, are the driving force of history. That is the real change, not the one that some dusty orthodox capitalist ideologues peddle, in an attempt to keep everything the same.

In the words of the re-elected general secretary Jeronimo de Sousa, the congress’s pledge to strengthen the party is organically linked with its ideal and ultimate goal “The party is also its class nature – the very reasons of our struggle – the goal of building a new society where capitalism’s exploitation, oppression and injustices can be banished -- a socialist society with its revolutionary, materialistic, dialectical creative theory, contrary to dogmatism and fossilisation and also to revision of fundamental principles —a theory that emerges from real life and has to provide real-life answers, with organisational principles such as a single political line, a single central leadership, a thoroughly embedded democracy, close ties to the working class, to all working people, to the masses of the people;  a communist party worthy of its name, that do not give in to pressure of threats, that do not fear the truth, courage and honesty.”