Skip to main content

My own history of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) by: EN, in source: Pelo Anti-Imperialismo

My own history of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP)

Capitalism was introduced as a strong economic force with leading industries in Portugal in the XIX century. At the second half of the XIX century the portuguese industrial sector had grown strong enough to produce a significant working class and the first workers organizations and trade unions started to appear. Utopian socialist leanings and some marxist and anarchist leanings first appeared by the end of that century with the first workers party (the “portuguese socialist party”) and the first national workers union movement. Capitalism completed its takeover overthrowing feudalism in 1910 through its bourgeois revolution – killing one of the last kings, overthrowing the monarchy and establishing the bourgeois democratic republic for the first time.
Between 1910 and 1926 the workers movement was too strong for the sake of capitalism and the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois were too beligerent among themselves to achieve the consolidation of bourgeois power that the capitalists desired. So in 1926 a fascist military coup solved all those problems of capitalism by brute force.
It was in that 1910-1926 period that portuguese workers and marxist sympathizers answered the call of the October Revolution to form a Communist Party. In 1917 the revolutionary news traveled to Portugal. In 1919 the Portuguese Maximalist Federation (Federação Maximalista Portuguesa or FMP) was formed out of mainly the anarchist trade unionists supportive of the bolsheviks and the soviet revolution and of the tiny leftover marxists of the portuguese socialist party. From the small FMP a small group founded the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) in 1921. Foreign Comintern delegates, mainly from Spain supported the group of FMP that became PCP all the way to the establishment of the new party, its first congress and in the election of its leadership.
Carlos Rates, the first general secretary of PCP, became a fascist after the fascist coup of 1926. In those 5 years (1921-1926) the party was confusely and poorly led and didn’t had the time to create a clear political line . When Carlos Rates was expelled in 1926 for supporting an alliance of PCP with the democratic bourgeois parties PCP was not really a unified and centralized organization but a colection of local groups. Bento Gonçalves as GS of PCP from 1929 to his death in 1937 (he died in Tarrafal fascist concentration death camp) tried the first reorganization of PCP. But PCP was reorganized again in 1940-1941, which means the party didn’t have a stable functioning organization until then. In matters of leadership it is even worse because from 1937 to 1961 (from the death of Bento Gonçalves to the election of Álvaro Cunhal as GS of PCP) there wasn’t a officially recongnized General Secretary of PCP. All of this entails organization mistakes, the consequences of fascist repression and most of all fierce left and right inner war within PCP.
On the other hand between the expelling of the traitor Carlos Rates in 1926 to the election of Álvaro Cunhal as GS of PCP in 1961 the Party lived great struggles and (in my opinion) its best historical moments. In 1930 PCP’s trade unionists formed the Comissão Inter-Sindical (CIS) as a supporter of the Red Trade Unions International (Profintern) breaking away from the until then bigger anarchist portuguese Confederação Geral do Trabalho (CGT). In 1934 PCP and the anarchists of CGT tried to take power in a national workers uprising but only in the industrial town of Marinha Grande the PCP workers actually took power, disarmed the local police and created a local soviet. Marinha Grande’s soviet was crushed in hours. The inner party evaluation of PCP of the Marinha Grande workers uprsising was a crushing criticism, exagerated and unfair. PCP’s leaders failed to see beyond the moment, beyond the defeat of the day the workers uprising of a small town could and should be the inspiration for the workers uprising of the whole Portugal and for a future portuguese soviet socialist power.
The crushing of Marinha Grande uprising in 1934 also cost the lives of dozens of workers and communists in the fight and in Tarrafal death camp. But interestingly it was just in time with the coming VII Congress of the Communist International in 1935 that endorsed the Popular Front alliance line (basicaly an anti-fascist allliance of communists and social-democrats). The particular immediate effect of the VII Congress in PCP was to dissolve the already banned ilegal Comissão Inter-Sindical (CIS) and start to organize infiltration in the fascist trade unions that were the only ones allowed by the portuguese fascist regime.
The presence of portuguese comrades in the spanish national revolutionary war (1936-1939), the death of of Bento Gonçaves in 1937 and the serious suspicion and expelling of presumed state agents in the party’s central comittee in the 1940-1941 reorganization years took the party through the ups and downs of those years. Shortly before the 1940-1941 reorganization years of PCP the party was even put outside the Comintern (while that didn’t happen in the Carlos Rates years despite his betrayal). But in spite of these weaknesses the party had been growing into a steadly expanding organization and steady ideological line since Álvaro Cunhal was the communist youth leader in 1935 (1935, chega a secretário-geral da Federação das Juventudes Comunistas) and participated in the VII Congress of the Communist International.
The particular history of PCP from 1935 to 1974 is about creating a sort of popular front without key elements of popular front: no organized parties besides PCP and the fascist rulling party, no party of social-democracy, no posible parliamentary politics. What this meant is that PCP concentrated mainly in infiltrating fascist unions and creating anti-fascist alliances within them that were very easily and very obviously dominated by PCP as the only real existing party in the trade unions. On the other hand PCP somewhat critically supported a vey unorganized bourgeois opposition (based in personalities rather than in organizations) that participated in fascist sham “elections” as a means to recruit intellectual middle class and to fish on the flow of the “popularity” of the moment.
From 1949 to 1960 Álvaro Cunhal – seen as a natural successor of Bento Gonçalves – was in fascist prisons, along with the most of the best top cadres of PCP. PCP was not officialy but in fact led by Júlio Fogaça in the late 1950s that steered the party to eurocommunism and to the full Khrushchev’s thesis of peaceful road to socialism. In 1960 a large group along with Álvaro Cunhal escaped the high security prison (Forte de Peniche) and immediately after overtrowed Júlio Fogaça inside PCP. The criticism of Júlio Fogaça was not shy to question elements of Khrushchev’s thesis but at the same time acepted those same thesis in a posible different context – no peaceful transition from fascism to bourgeois democracy but “peaceful transition from bourgeois democracy to socialism” not sure, let’s wait and see, we think about that later…
At the same time a maoist breakaway group formed led by a former member of Álvaro Cunhal top ranking closest associates. The maoist group did not add much to the political context besides the defense of immediate armed struggle (all other issues like criticism of Khrushchev were quickly and easily forgot). PCP responded to the maoists and pressures within the party by dragging its feet until founding Acção Revolucionária Armada (ARA) in 1970 (active until 1973). Anyway the small existing armed groups played no major role in the overtrow of fascism in 1974 that was brought by the middle ranking officers of the fascist army engaged in war against the liberation movements in the african (portuguese) colonies since 1961 that were tired of being killed in a hopeless war that was going to be lost.
In 1965 PCP finally defined its strategy beyond fascism in some clear way as a “National Democratic Revolution” while it still defended socialist revolution of some sort and the dictatorship of the proletariat as concepts since its foundation. Although the “National Democratic Revolution” is in my opinion an imagined stage between capitalism and socialism (and a very wrong idea that the “popular democracy” concept could be used in Portugal without the presence of the red army) it had some very radical elements in comparison with the previous 1950s PCP’s line of peaceful transition. The key of the “National Democratic Revolution” was a sort of armed popular rebellion that never really happened.
In 1974 PCP faced with the fact of a sort of military leftwing progresive coup lowered the radical leanings of the “National Democratic Revolution” and asked for a provisional government kind of popular front run (with the brand new social-democratic “Socialist Party” and other bourgeois “democratic” rightwing party) under the supervision of a leftwing military council. The situation of the masses pressed for a lot more than these arrangements, the masses took over the latifundios (the crop lands) and the workers launched wild strikes and even occupied some work places. The situation obviously led to armed confrontation and PCP settled with the petit-bourgeois military council gradually turned against PCP (that is gradually turned rightwing) to have bourgeois elections within a bourgeois democracy while PCP cheered as a victory avoiding a civil war and mantaining its legal status.
In the 25th November 1975 two military wings assumed combat postions. PCP ordered the leftwing to stand down. The settlement was made. The day was called by PCP as a rightwing counter-revolutionary coup and the start of a counter-revolution. On the other hand the 1974-1975 period of lively class struggle was called the April Revolution – sort of a synonym of “National Democratic Revolution” or a “halfway” NDR. The problem of the “halfway” NDR is the complete confusion in how you pass from capitalism to socialism and the delusional idea of the NDR as a stage between capitalism and socialism.
PCP experinced growth in the new bourgeois parliamentary elections in the period 1976-1982 (roughly went from 10% to 20%). Meanwhile PCP kind of forgot that it already had since the fascist regime time and since day one of the “April Revolution” an overwhelming majority of the portuguese trade unions and was leading the biggest trade union confederation and biggest mass organization in Portugal (CGTP). PCP could have done much more radical struggles with CGTP but as in the provisional government days its policy inside CGTP was to get cozy with the minor opportunist tendencies of “socialists” (social-democrats) and catholics within CGTP. Sort of preaching the opportunists to be “good fellas”.
The late 1980s came and PCP went along with Perestroika line. In 1988 PCP copied the basic line of French Communist Party’s (PCF) eurocommunist line by copying the spirit and the words of the 1968’s PCF Manifesto of Champigny “an advanced democracy for a socialist France” (démocratie avancée pour une France socialiste).
In 1990 PCP endorsed Perestroika and made a terrible opportunist criticism of a cleary dying Soviet Union as a sort of balance sheet – among the things said was the talk of “lack of democracy”, lack of “market socialism” and the complete absence of pointing names and precise facts. The 1990 opportunist and absolutely confusing PCP’s USSR balance sheet was left untouched forever, but confirmed a few times specially during the 1990s. The essence of that fake debate and fake analysis is the upholding of the “portuguese road to socialism” and “portuguese marxism” put into practice by shamelessly copying the PCF’s program of “advanced democracy” in 1988.
In 2001-2002 Álvaro Cunhal made his last great public intervention against the PCP’s rightwing tendency (known as “renovadores” or “communist renewal”) that was fully organized and nearly tookover all top organs of the party. Unfortunately comrade Álvaro Cunhal didn’t realize that those revisionist “renovadores” were mostly the product of his own mistakes, at the top of them all the “advanced democracy” PCP program of 1988.
Comrade Álvaro Cunhal died in 2005 and although he did very very significant mistakes his death opened the way for the full submission of PCP to the social-democratic Socialist Party without much dramas. Today PCP gives parliamentary support to the social-democratic Socialist Party bourgeois government.


Popular posts from this blog

An overview of the 1934 Toledo Auto-Lite strike - Philip A. Korth & Margaret R. Beegle

LIBCOM.ORG A summary by Philip A. Korth and Margaret R. Beegle of the 1934 Toledo Auto-Lite strike. Originally appeared as the second chapter of I remember like today: the Auto-Lite strike of 1934, an oral history. The strikes at Auto-Lite in Toledo in the spring of 1934 secured a victory for the fledgling Automobile Workers Federal Union Local 18384 of the AFL and permanently altered the nature of worker-employer relationships in Toledo. This victory assured that working men and women in Toledo would have some power over their working lives and a voice in their community. Workers in Toledo today owe a debt of gratitude to the "unholy thirteen" who huddled over the fires burning in drums in front of Auto-Lite and who dreamed of freedom and dignity. And as today grows out of yesterday, so the workers in 1934 faced a set of conditions and attitudes shaped decades before by the industrial evolution of Toledo, the development of the automobile industry, and the historical strugg…

Ukrainian Labour Temple in Winnipeg a national historic site,10 Aug. 2009, NUGPE

Landmark site was a hub of activity during the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 and it has long been of great historic significance to the Canadian labour movement.

Winnipeg (10 Aug. 2009) - The Ukrainian Labour Temple in Winnipeg's North End – a focal point of the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 – has been designated a national historic site by the federal government.

The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada says the designation recognizes the architectural significance of the building and "the important role it played in the social and cultural activities of Ukrainian Canadians."
The Ukranian Labour Temple was a centre of trade union activity during the historic Winnipeg General Strike of 1919

Built in 1918-19, the structure is the first and largest Ukrainian labour temple erected in Canada. It was built primarily by volunteer labour and financed by donations and served as a key hub for Ukrainian culture and political activism at the tim…

A US-Supported Coup in the Making in Nicaragua by Carlos Dada, 10 July, 2018

Jacinto Suarez, a legislator and the International Secretary of the Daniel Ortega’s FSLN, tells El Faro it’s all a conspiracy “to overturn the government”. Likewise, he justifies the use of paramilitary forces to aid the Police. Photo: Fred Ramos
By “the oligarchy, the drug dealers and the poor people on the right”
By Carlos Dada(El Faro / Confidencial) HAVANA TIMES – In Nicaragua the media that don’t belong to the government or the presidential family are overflowing with voices demanding the exit of President Daniel Ortega, but there are very few individual Sandinista voices there. The responsibility for such views falls mainly on the Sandinista Front Party and the public officials.  They won’t talk to reporters. There’s generally only an official version, delivered directly by the Vice President Rosario Murillo, using the government’s own communications media. That’s why an interview with Jacinto Suarez merits a higher profile.  Suarez is one of the most influential men in the FSLN. …