People's Democracy

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


No. 43

October 27, 2013




Álvaro Cunhal's Life: An Example That Shines Into

 The Present and the Future


Below we reproduce the PCP Central Committee’s Resolution on Álvaro Cunhal's birth centenary


2013 MARKS the 100th anniversary of Álvaro Cunhal's birth. Commemorating his centennial is a necessary homage, to be paid by the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), by democrats, patriots, the working class, working people, the youth, intellectuals, men and women of science, the arts and culture, the people of Portugal, to one of the most consistent fighters for freedom, democracy, socialism and communism.


Álvaro Cunhal was, in the 20th century and the transition into the 21st, Portugal's most outstanding personality in the struggle for the values of social and human liberation. His influence extended internationally, as one of the best-known and prestigious leaders in the international communist movement.


Álvaro Cunhal was a member, leader and general secretary of the PCP. His life was entirely dedicated to the struggle for freedom, democracy and socialism.


Early in life, he took sides in terms of class: he stood for the rights and liberation of working people. He exhibited a rare dose of tenacity, dedication and courage. He rejected benefits or privileges for himself, and dedicated his life to the interests of the exploited and the oppressed. He withstood horrendous trials, lived and worked underground, underwent long years in jail, suffering brutal torture and solitary confinement.


His work was undeniably decisive in conceiving, building and consolidating the Portuguese Communist Party as a revolutionary and Marxist-Leninist party. Towards this process, he made highly valuable contributions, such as the concept of the great party collective, and the definition and systematisation of the basic features that define the identity of a communist party.


His role in drawing up the Party's strategy and tactics was considerable and is widely acknowledged. One example is the definition of the (1965) Programme for the “National and Democratic Revolution” whose correctness was fully confirmed by the April (1974) Revolution and its far-reaching revolutionary changes. Also worthy of note are his contributions in analysing and establishing the line of conduct and participation throughout the whole revolutionary process, and in defence of the April gains, and also in drawing up the (1988) Programme for “Portugal, an Advanced Democracy on the Threshold of the 21st Century”.


He made a wide range of contributions towards strengthening the international communist movement, the struggle against imperialism, and to further the workers' and peoples' liberation process, particularly in the former Portuguese colonies, as well as in developing the struggle for peace.


As part and parcel of his direct participation in the PCP's leadership, organisation and work, he made a valuable and decisive contribution to theory, through thousands of political contributions, speeches, and through far-reaching and highly significant written works, whose political and ideological impact was considerable, and whose understanding and study continues to be highly topical to this day.


Side by side with his revolutionary political work, Álvaro Cunhal also had a keen interest in all spheres of life. Particularly prominent were his artistic creations, including works of literature – novel and short stories –, fine arts – drawings and paintings –, as well as his theoretical works on aesthetics and cultural creation, involving art, artists and society.


Álvaro Cunhal was born in Coimbra on November 10, 1913. Throughout more than seven decades of struggle, in the various periods of his life, he always worked with consistency and determination.


He began his revolutionary work as a student in Lisbon University School of Law, where he participated in the student union movement, and in 1934 was elected as the students' representative in the University Senate. He was an active member of the Portuguese Communist Youth Federation (FJCP), and was elected as its general secretary in 1935. He was a member of the Portuguese Communist Party since 1931, having entered the Party's underground structure in 1935. During this period, he was arrested twice, in 1937 and 1940.


He participated in the 1940-41 PCP reorganisation, and was a member of the Secretariat from 1942 to 1949. During this period he made a decisive contribution to the PCP's work and in defining the Party's identity as a party with deep roots in the working class and among the working people, with a strong influence among intellectuals and the youth – as a major national party with a leading role in the anti-fascist struggle.


He was again arrested in 1949, and spent the whole of the 1950s in fascist jails. When he was taken to trial, he used the fascist courtroom to deliver a hard-hitting indictment of the fascist dictatorship and defence of the Party's policies. He was sentenced, and spent 11 consecutive years in fascist jails, of which 8 in completely solitary confinement. After being transferred from Lisbon Penitentiary to the fortress-prison at Peniche, he escaped from there on  January 3, 1960, together with a group of other prominent Communist Party members.


From the beginning of the 1960s until the April 1974 Revolution, it was an extremely intense period in his life. He returned as a member to the Central Committee Secretariat and in March 1961 was elected PCP general secretary. He contributed decisively towards correcting a right-wing deviation and opposing right-wing opportunism as well as bourgeois radicalist sectarian ultra-left tendencies. He made a decisive contribution towards analysing Portugal's situation, defining tasks and providing leadership for the Party's political work, creating the conditions for the April Revolution and influencing its development.


The period following the fascist dictatorship's overthrow on  April 25, 1974 was the first time, after over forty years of underground struggle and jail confinement, that he was able to undertake political work in the freedom made possible by the April Revolution. He was a minister without portfolio in the first four provisional governments, was elected to the Constituent Assembly in 1975, and to the Assembly of the Republic (parliament) in all elections between 1975 and 1987. He was a member of the Council of State from 1982 to 1992. The hallmarks of his contribution during the revolutionary process's development, and later to defend the revolutionary gains from the counter-revolutionary onslaught, were in assessing and fostering the role of struggles: struggles of the working class, the working people and the masses of the people.



At the PCP's 14th Congress in 1992 – as part of a renovation and a new leadership structure – he left the post of general secretary and was elected by the Central Committee as president of the PCP National Council. In December 1996 the 15th PCP Congress abolished the National Council and its presidency, and he remained as a PCP Central Committee member.


Until the end of his life, he continued to be actively involved in political work, in culture and the arts, and in confidently asserting communist goals.


He died at the age of 92 on June 13, 2005. His funeral on June 15 was attended by hundreds of thousands of people. It constituted an extraordinary tribute from the communists, democrats, patriots, workers and the people, to whom Álvaro Cunhal dedicated his whole life. His funeral was itself a demonstration, asserting determination, engagement and confidence in continuity of the struggle for the cause that he embraced.


Álvaro Cunhal's life, thinking and struggle justify and necessitate a significant tribute. In celebrating Álvaro Cunhal's birth centennial, we are highlighting the valuable legacy of his thinking – a set of analyses and actions whose contents have been and are being borne out by events, and becoming increasingly topical in the present and for the future.


In celebrating this centennial, we don't just highlight how valuable Álvaro Cunhal's legacy of work and contributions are. We also seek to better understand and grasp his methods, and the criteria used in his analyses, which exhibit a remarkable understanding of communists' theoretical and ideological foundations – Marxism-Leninism, its development, and its creative application to the actual conditions of society in Portugal and the world.


In celebrating Álvaro Cunhal's centennial, we highlight the significance of his life as a man and as a revolutionary, and its meaning, not just as an example worthy of highlighting but also in terms of the attitude, the stance and the political goals for the future that Portugal and the world need in this second decade of the 21stq century.


The Portuguese Communist Party Central Committee decided that the Álvaro Cunhal Centennial commemorations will bear the slogan 'Life, thinking and struggle: an example that shines into the present and the future'. These commemorations will extend throughout the whole of 2013, particularly on and around November 10, his birthday centennial.


The Central Committee has decided that the Centennial commemorations shall be based on Álvaro Cunhal's identification with the Party and its goals, toward whose definition and implementation he made a decisive contribution – upholding the interests of the working class, the working people, the people and the nation, upholding the communist ideal and goals. They shall highlight the course of his life, his works, activity and example, as part and parcel of the cause for which he fought. They shall address Álvaro Cunhal's thinking and legacy as an element of prime importance for the present time. In the Álvaro Cunhal Centennial commemorations, the man, the communist, the intellectual and the artist are all one.


A major exhibition was organised in Lisbon in the first half of 2013 apart from various seminars, debates and other events on topics and areas relating to Álvaro Cunhal's work and contributions. Special issue of 'Avante!'  (newspaper) and 'O Militante' (organisational magazine) were brought out along with various pamphlets, books and documentaries. Publicisation, readings and study groups of Álvaro Cunhal's works; youth involvement and participation, including specific youth events were also planned.