PORTUGAL: COMMUNIST PARTY’S XVI CONGRESS ENDS IN TRIUMPH FOR ORTHODOX WING AS CUNHAL, ABSENT THROUGH ILLNESS, RECEIVES STANDING OVATION

The historic figure of Alvaro Cunhal, now 87 years old and ill at home, still holds a lot of influence in the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP). At its XVI congress in the Atlantic Pavilion, Lisbon, Cunhal had his powerful and emotive speech read out, which brought the 1,700 congress members to their feet, many of them in tears. Rent for weeks in an internal dispute between Orthodox Marxist-Leninists and Reformists, who intend to occupy a space between Communism and Socialism, and intend to abandon the classical line of Marxism-Leninism, the congress approved a new Central Committee in which the orthodox ideals are reaffirmed. Basically, if the reformists are not Communists or Socialists, what are they? The PCP is the subject of one of the most vicious anti-Communist attacks of all time in Portugal, as the governing Socialist Party and main opposition force, the Social Democrats, launch fascist policies in the Portuguese parliament, one proposal recently even pondering a measure to make the PCP illegal. Facing these attacks, which are not confined to parliament but also virtually all the media, except the official newspaper, Avante, the PCP reacts with firmness and vision to the challenges posed by today’s world. Josй Casanova, the Director of Avante, stated that “Ideals do not die and the PCP remains alive…We live in a time which is simultaneously difficult and fascinating. We could even say that we have the privilege and responsibility to live in these times : a time which showed us temporary failure of the most beautiful and ambitious dream in the History of Mankind…in which we, Communists, assume in full conscience the role of willing standard-bearers of solidarity, of fraternity, of freedom, of social justice”. The PCP came out of this congress proclaiming its role as the party carrying the words and ideals of pure Marxism-Leninism, transporting these ideals through the present turbulence and projecting them into a glorious future. Alvaro Cunhal’s speech took the opportunity to examine the current Portuguese political scene. He criticised the Socialist Party, in government : “It obeys NATO and the orders of Brussels against the Portuguese interests. It is the grave of national independence…one of the most serious aspects of the policy adopted by this government is its servile participation in the criminal global offensive of imperialism under the control of the United States. With interventionism, blockades, aggression, terrorism and wars, imperialism tried to impose itself worldwide as a unique and final system. This offensive is not unstoppable. Not only is the capitalist system corroded by contradiction, it also meets opposition forces which, when developed, will stop its objectives being reached”. Alvaro Cunhal ended his speech by making a revision of the PCP’s recent history and this would seem a fitting end to the summary of this congress, a congress in which the PCP proves that it is very much alive and dynamic, despite its 12% of the vote in Portugal. It is a party which is organised, ready to face the future using an internal system which is as dynamic and innovative as it is experienced and resourceful. In the words of Cunhal : “Comrades, Generation after generation, we fought for 48 years for freedom against dictatorship, paying the price with long years in prison, torture, death sometimes, comrades being shot dead. Then after the April Revolution (1974), for the glory of our party, we achieved great conquests with the agrarian reform law and the policy of nationalization , together with the workers, the masses and the revolutionary armed forces. Since then we have fought for democracy, now so adulterated, against the domination of Portugal by trans-national powers, against the obedience of the government to foreign interests. I believe in the generations to come, won by the ideals of Communism, I believe that they will hold our banner high, the red banner with the hammer and sickle.”

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey Pravda.Ru Lisbon