People's Democracy

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


No. 52

December 30, 2012


Nineteenth Congress of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP)



S Ramachandran Pillai


I ATTENDED the 19th Congress of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) held at the Municipal Sports Complex in the city of Almeda, near Lisbon, capital of Portugal, from November 30-December 2, 2012.  More than 1,200 delegates attended the Congress and a considerable section of them were women.  Fraternal delegates representing 58 Communist and Workers Parties were present in the Congress.


The PCP Congress adopted a political resolution which analysed the world situation and national situation in Portugal, made certain amendments to the Party Programme and Party Constitution. 


The Portuguese Communist Party is one of the important and active Communist parties in Europe.  The PCP was founded on March 6, 1921 and the first Congress of the PCP was held in Lisbon in November 1923. After the rightwing military coup in May 1926 and assumption of power, the  military dictatorship banned the PCP.  The party worked underground from 1926 till the Carnation Revolution in April 1974 which had overthrown the 48-year long fascist dictatorship and established democracy.  The PCP played an important role in the fight against the dictatorial regime of Antonio de Sliveira Salazar and for establishing democracy. After the April 1974 revolution, the ban on the PCP was lifted and it became the first recognised political party. Six months after the Carnation Revolution, the 7th Congress of the PCP was held in October 1974 to plan future tasks.  The 36 members of the Central Committee elected at the 7th Congress of the PCP had, to their credit, an aggregate of 300 years of jail life. 


One year after the 1974 revolution, the first democratic election took place in Portugal and the PCP secured 12.52 per cent of the votes polled and 30 seats in the 230-member strong parliament. In the second democratic elections, PCP raised its share of votes to 14.56 and 40 seats.  In the presidential elections in 1986, the party polled 20.6 per cent of votes. There was a serious setback to the PCP after the collapse of the Soviet Union and setback to socialism in Eastern Europe. The percentage of vote secured by the party and the seats in parliament declined.  Now the party is slowly recovering from the setbacks and expanding its influence among the people.  In the parliament elections in 2011, PCP secured 8 per cent votes and 16 seats.  In the local bodies’ election, PCP polled 9.7 per cent of the votes and 174 posts out of 2078. In elections to the European parliament, PCP polled  10.6 per cent votes  and two out of the 22 seats.


The present government in Portugal is led by a rightwing coalition of Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Social Centre People’s Party (CDS-PP). Before the present government, the Socialist Party won the elections in 2005 and formed its government.  There is no basic difference among the Socialists, Social Democratic Party and the People’s Party on economic policies and all of them stand for the same neo-liberal economic policies. 


The neo-liberal economic policies pursued by the Socialist government and the present Social Democratic Party government led Portugal to a serious debt crisis.  The Socialists, Social Democrats and the People’s Party signed a financial aid programme against the interests of the people of Portugal.  It virtually handed over the future of Portugal to a humiliating dependence on IMF, European Union and European Central Bank.  The agreement was a big blow to the democratic polity, national independence and sovereignty. In the name of saving Portugal from debt crisis, the agreement intended to intensify the exploitation of the people and the expropriation of public wealth by corporates.


The budgets passed by the parliament in 2011 and 2012 made big attacks against the  workers, their wages, trade union rights and their  living conditions. Investments have been substantially reduced and public sector undertakings and public resources have been handed over to big private corporates.  The economic situation has further deteriorated during the past four years.  The population of Portugal is one crore seven lakhs people and out of them 12 lakh people are unemployed at present.  The government is continuing its offensive against the working people by increasing their working hours, reducing their wages and retrenching them without paying them adequate compensation or retrenchment benefits.  The pension amounts of the pensioners have been drastically cut and the retirement age has been raised.  A significant share of the health care services has been handed over to corporates and private sector.  The condition of youth has worsened particularly at work place due to increasing casualisation, low salaries and lack of trade union rights.  The sufferings and difficulties of the women have increased and there is deterioration in the right to equality in many spheres of life particularly as a result of the high unemployment and low wages.  The government made big cuts in the expenditure in public education system and thousands of primary schools have been closed down.  The “austerity” policies have devastating impact in the sphere of culture and cultural activities.  The concentration of ownership in mass media with vast majority of media being owned by a small number of big conglomerates has irreversibly affected the quality, diversity and pluralism in information, in culture etc. 


The members of the PCP are active among workers, young people, women, farmers, small business people, fishermen, tenants and other sections of the toiling people by taking up their issues and organising their struggles.  The PCP has been in the forefront of all struggles of these sections of people.  A series of mass struggles took place during the past three years.  There were general strikes on November 24, 2010, November 24, 2011, March 22, 2012 and November 14, 2012.  The struggles of the working class have inspired the small and middle farmers, the small business owners, fishermen, tenants, women, youth, disabled people, senior citizens, government employees to come forward and to fight for their interests and rights.  The Party is very active among these sections of people and representatives of these classes and sections of people explained their experience in the Party Congress.


The PCP is expanding its influence among the people by leading mass struggles and through intense political activities.  At present, the PCP has 60,484 party members.  In the past four years, 5,800 new party members joined the party, half of them are under the age of 40.  This year itself, 1,100 new members have joined the party.


Comrade Jeronimo de Sousa, general secretary of the PCP has summarised the aim and character of the PCP in his opening speech in the Party Congress.  “Our Party has asserted itself within Portuguese society, and continues to do so, with its unmistakable identity. We are the party of the working class and of all working people. We uphold the interests of anti-monopoly classes and strata. We are independent from the influence, interests, ideology and policies of the forces of capital. We are the Party whose major goals are building socialism and communism, a society freed from capitalist exploitation and oppression. We are the party whose theoretical foundation is Marxism-Leninism. We are the party that operates along principles based on the creative development of democratic centralism, based on a deep-seated internal democracy, on a single general line and with a single central leadership. We are a patriotic and internationalist party.

“Those are the traits that define our identity and render our party different within Portuguese society. These traits define the Portuguese Communist Party, guide its practice, and are enshrined in the Party Rules and in its Programme.”


After making a serious assessment of the objective situation in Portugal, the 19th Congress came to the conclusion that after 36 years of  rightwing policies implemented by the Socialists, Social Democratic and People’s Party governments have led Portugal to impoverishment, retrogression, economic and social disaster and jeopardise  workers and people’s living conditions as well as national independence and sovereignty.  Based on this evaluation, the Party Congress decided that it is necessary and urgent to defeat the rightwing policies and to build an alternative to them.  The alternative must be based on patriotic and Left progressive policies.  The process of building up of an alternative may be a complex one and take a long time.  The alternative must be based on a sharp break with the current policies of domination of big capital, surrender of national interest and submission to imperialist interests. The Congress declared that only these steps can open up the path towards economic development, social progress and assertion of sovereignty and national interest.  


For achieving this, the Party Congress decided to strengthen the PCP with a decisive expansion of its  political, social and electoral influence and a vigorous development of the mass struggles.The Party Congress called for cooperation with democratic forces, sections and personalities who are willing to break with  rightwing policies and to work for the formation of a patriotic and Leftwing government. 


The Congress decided to intensify the efforts to strengthen the party organisation and particularly to focus on political work, to establish links with and to bring together all democratic forces who agree and identify with Left progressive alternative. In order to achieve this aim, the PCP decided to win over more people and new sections in the struggle for patriotic and Leftwing policies.  The 19th Congress of the PCP decided to further intensify the struggles against the PSD-CDS-PP government.

The birth centenary of Alvaro Cunhal will be celebrated in 2013.  Alvaro Cunhal was the general secretary of the PCP from 1961 to 1992 and the president of the PCP from 1992 to 1996 and an outstanding leader of the international Communist movement.


The 19th Congress made certain changes in the Party Programme which was adopted in 1965. The amendments are in the nature of updating the developments during the past 36 years.  The Party Programme of the PCP declares that its aim is to establish socialism and communism and the present stage of the revolution is to attain advanced democracy and the values of April 1974 revolution.  The PCP summed up the past 36 years of experience after the adoption of the Party Programme in 1965 in the following sentences: “Portugal is undergoing a particularly serious period in its history. The ongoing counter-revolutionary process and the process of integration into the European Union have, together, led to a situation characterised by domination by monopoly conglomerates, associated to and dependent upon foreign capital, by further distortion of the democratic regime, and by national sovereignty having been compromised to a very great extent. This situation exhibits traits that are typical of State monopoly capitalism, where the Portuguese State is increasingly sidelined, dominated and colonised within the EU, and more generally, colonised by imperialism and its structures.”


The entire proceedings of the Party Congress was very lively and the delegates responded to the speeches with clapping and shouting of slogans.  A substantial section of the delegates were young people.  Attending the PCP Congress was an inspiring experience.


The Congress elected a Central Committee by the majority of 1,219 delegates voted with 1,184 in favour of the panel and 14 votes against and 21 abstentions.    The Central Committee held its first plenary meeting and unanimously elected Jeronimo de Sousa as general secretary, a 19-member Polit Bureau, a ten-member secretariat and a seven-member Central Control Commission. 


Another interesting aspect of the Portuguese Party Congress was that the PCP had allowed thousands of Party members and sympathizers of the PCP to watch the entire proceedings of the Party Congress from the balcony of the indoor stadium.