Portuguese Communist Party

Portuguese Communist Party
   / Partido Comunista Portugues
   The Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) has evolved from its early anarcho-syndicalist roots at its formation in 1921. This evolution included the undisciplined years of the 1920s, during which bolshevization began and continued into the 1930s, then through the years of clandestine existence during the Estado Novo, the Stalinization of the 1940s, the "anarcho-liberal shift" of the 1950s, the emergence of Maoist and Trotskyist splinter groups of the 1960s, to legalization after the Revolution of 25 April 1974 as the strongest and oldest political party in Portugal. Documents from the Russian archives have shown that the PCP's history is not a purely "domestic" one. While the PCP was born on its own without Soviet assistance, once it joined the Communist International (CI), it lost a significant amount of autonomy as CI officials increasingly meddled in PCP internal politics by dictating policy, manipulating leadership elections, and often financing party activities.
   Early Portuguese communism was a mix of communist ideological strands accustomed to a spirited internal debate, a lively external debate with its rivals, and a loose organizational structure. The PCP, during its early years, was weak in grassroots membership and was basically a party of "notables." It was predominantly a male organization, with minuscule female participation. It was also primarily an urban party concentrated in Lisbon. The PCP membership declined from 3,000 in 1923 to only 40 in 1928.
   In 1929, the party was reorganized so that it could survive clandestinely. As its activity progressed in the 1930s, a long period of instability dominated its leadership organs as a result of repression, imprisonments, and disorganization. The CI continued to intervene in party affairs through the 1930s, until the PCP was expelled from the CI in 1938-39, apparently because of its conduct during police arrests.
   The years of 1939-41 were difficult ones for the party, not only because of increased domestic repression but also because of internal party splits provoked by the Nazi-Soviet pact and other foreign actions. From 1940 to 1941, two Communist parties struggled to attract the support of the CI and accused each other of "revisionism." The CI was disbanded in 1943, and the PCP was not accepted back into the international communist family until its recognition by the Cominform in 1947.
   The reorganization of 1940-41 finally put the PCP under the firm control of orthodox communists who viewed socialism from a Soviet perspective. Although Soviet support was denied the newly reorganized party at first, the new leaders continued its Stalinization. The enforcement of "democratic centralism" and insistence upon the "dictatorship of the proletariat" became entrenched. The 1940s brought increased growth, as the party reached its membership apex of the clandestine era with 1,200 members in 1943, approximately 4,800 in 1946, and 7,000 in 1947.
   The party fell on hard times in the 1950s. It developed a bad case of paranoia, which led to a witch hunt for infiltrators, informers, and spies in all ranks of the party. The lower membership figures who followed the united antifascist period were reduced further through expulsions of the "traitors." By 1951, the party had been reduced to only 1,000 members. It became a closed, sectarian, suspicious, and paranoiac organization, with diminished strength in almost every region, except in the Alentejo, where the party, through propaganda and ideology more than organizational strength, was able to mobilize strikes of landless peasants in the early 1950s.
   On 3 January 1960, Álvaro Cunhal and nine other political prisoners made a spectacular escape from the Peniche prison and fled the country. Soon after this escape, Cunhal was elected secretary-general and, with other top leaders, directed the PCP from exile. Trotskyite and Maoist fractions emerged within the party in the 1960s, strengthened by the ideological developments in the international communist movement, such as in China and Cuba. The PCP would not tolerate dissent or leftism and began purging the extreme left fractions.
   The PCP intensified its control of the labor movement after the more liberal syndical election regulations under Prime Minister Mar- cello Caetano allowed communists to run for leadership positions in the corporative unions. By 1973, there was general unrest in the labor movement due to deteriorating economic conditions brought on by the colonial wars, as well as by world economic pressures including the Arab oil boycott.
   After the Revolution of 25 April 1974, the PCP enjoyed a unique position: it was the only party to have survived the Estado Novo. It emerged from clandestinity as the best organized political party in Portugal with a leadership hardened by years in jail. Since then, despite the party's stubborn orthodoxy, it has consistently played an important role as a moderating force. As even the Socialist Party (PS) was swept up by the neoliberal tidal wave, albeit a more compassionate variant, increasingly the PCP has played a crucial role in ensuring that interests and perspectives of the traditional Left are aired.
   One of the most consistent planks of the PCP electoral platform has been opposition to every stage of European integration. The party has regularly resisted Portuguese membership in the European Economic Community (EEC) and, following membership beginning in 1986, the party has regularly resisted further integration through the European Union (EU). A major argument has been that EU membership would not resolve Portugal's chronic economic problems but would only increase its dependence on the world. Ever since, the PCP has argued that its opposition to membership was correct and that further involvement with the EU would only result in further economic dependence and a consequent loss of Portuguese national sovereignty. Further, the party maintained that as Portugal's ties with the EU increased, the vulnerable agrarian sector in Portugal would risk further losses.
   Changes in PCP leadership may or may not alter the party's electoral position and role in the political system. As younger generations forget the uniqueness of the party's resistance to the Estado Novo, public images of PCP leadership will change. As the image of Álvaro Cunhal and other historical communist leaders slowly recedes, and the stature of Carlos Carvalhas (general secretary since 1992) and other moderate leaders is enhanced, the party's survival and legitimacy have strengthened. On 6 March 2001, the PCP celebrated its 80th anniversary.
   See also Left Bloc.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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