The history of the PCP has been one of struggle: struggles for liberty, for democracy and workers' rights, against injustice and exploitation, and always on the side of the workers and the people, showing the way to socialism. There has been also reflection and study, discussion and the argument of ideas. The highest moments of such reflection and discussion of the line defining the strategy for communists in the times ahead are the Party Congresses.
In the long history of the Portuguese Communist Party, founded on 6 March 1921, there have been 17 Congresses. Let us recall briefly their history.
On 6 march 1921, a Conference is held that founds the Portuguese Communist Party. Held in Lisbon at the headquarters of the Association of Office Workers, it brought together those who, influenced by communist ideas and the victorious October Revolution, where then to take the first steps along a road that would soon be strewn with battles and sacrifices.
The first Party Congress takes place on 12 November 1923 in Lisbon. There, some 90 delegates representing 27 organisations participate. The Congress Theses, published previously in The Communist, have been discussed in theses organisations. The General Secretary at the time, José Carlos Rates, presented the Report of the Executive Committee, and the Congress passed a resolution on the Agrarian Question.
O The Second Congress is convened on 29 May 1926 in Lisbon, but will be forced to interrupt its work even though 100 delegates are present. On 28 May a reactionary military coup installs the dictatorship that will lead to fascism. Repression against communists is not long in coming and, in 1927, the Party headquarters are closed down.
It is during the first reorganisation of the Party, in 1929, that the figure of Bento Gonçalves comes to the fore, who is later to become the Party's General Secretary.
The Party goes underground from where it will emerge only with the Revolution of 25 April 1974. It is the only political party to survive the repression.
The III Congress - the first illegal one - is held in 1943. By now, as a result of reorganisation carried out in 1940-41, the Party can count on a nucleus of revolutionary entirely committed to the Party's struggles and tasks.
At this Congress, Álvaro Cunhal presents the Political Report of the Secretariat of the Central Committee entitled "The Unity of the Portuguese Nation in struggle for bread, liberty and independence".
In 1946 the IV Congress identifies the growth of mass struggle as the main direction of action for communists with the aim of overthrowing fascism. In 1957 the V Congress meets and the PCP takes its position on colonialism, recognising the right to complete and immediate independence for the oppressed peoples of the colonies.
The Path to Victory
"The Path to Victory - The tasks of the Party in the National and Democratic Revolution" provided the political basis for the Report delivered by Álvaro Cunhal to the VI Congress held in 1965. Soon this Report, which was at once published as a book and distributed clandestinely, would be seen as an essential document in the anti-fascist struggle. It correctly defined the way to the overthrow of the dictatorship and the objectives of the National and Democratic Revolution that would afterwards be endorsed in the Party Programme adopted by the Congress. To destroy fascist State and install a democratic regime; to liquidate the power of the monopolies and ensure general economic development; to win Agrarian Reform by handing over the land to those who work it; to raise the living standards of the working classes and people in general; to democratise education and culture; to free Portugal from imperialism; to recognise the right of the people in the colonies to immediate independence; to follow a policy of peace and friendship with all peoples: such were the 8 points of the PCP Programme that history would prove to be necessary for a true democratic revolution and which came to be fulfilled in the process that followed the 25 of April.
On 20 October 1974, a few months after the 25 April, the first legal PCP Congress after 48 years of fascism meets in extraordinary session. Along with thousands invited in celebration, thousands of delegates representing a strongly growing Party endorse changes to the Party Programme and Statutes resulting from the winning of liberty. This, the VII Congress, endorses also an Emergency Platform of fundamental measures for the defence and development of the Revolution. The Central Committee at this Congress was then composed of 23 full and 13 supplementary members.
The VIII Congress met at Lisbon's International Fair on 2-3 October 1976. The Theses had been widely discussed throughout the Party organisation that had elected 1282 delegates. Again, an extensive Report by Álvaro Cunhal was presented to Congress. "The Portuguese Revolution, Past and Future", published at the time, analyses the process that had led to the Revolution, indicating the fundamental lines of policy to defend the revolutionary victories. It remains even today a valuable document by which to evaluate the entire process that was then underway. An enlarged Central Committee was elected of 54 full and 36 supplementary members.
Defence of the Victories
The IX Congress took place at the Quimigal Hall in Barreiro. Its work lasted four days beginning on 31 May and ending on 3 June 1979. Three years of complex battles to defend the victories of the Revolution were analysed by 1642 delegates elected at 2997 meetings and assemblies. The PCP continued to grow and an enlarged Central Committee of 133 members was elected.
Four years later, from 15-18 December 1983, and for the first time in Oporto, communists met their highest organ. It was the X Congress, held at the Crystal Palace. The right-wing "AD" alliance had been defeated but its policies followed by the new PS/PSD coalition. Dangers were growing, and from their analysis the fundamental task in defence of Portuguese Democracy were defined. The 2114 delegates elected a new Central Committee, enlarged to 165 members.
The XI Congress was convened in Amadora. In less than one week, from 28 January to 2 February, the party was mobilised to elect the delegates who are to take the decision to vote for Mário Soares against Freitas do Amaral in the second round of the Presidential elections. The choice of communists proves decisive for the result of that election.
At the Threshold of the 21st Century
Again in Oporto, the XII Congress meets from 1-4 December 1988. The Crystal Palace welcomes 2090 delegates mostly elected through 925 assemblies where the Theses had also been discussed. Nearly 1700 amendments were proposed. The Congress endorsed changes to Party Statues, adapting them to the new times and taking into account the rich experience of revolutionary work. It also endorsed a new Programme - "Portugal: an advanced democracy at the threshold of the 21st century". The Central Committee is considerably rejuvenated and continues to grow: 175 are elected of which 96 are full members.
From 18-20 May 1990 in Loures, another Extraordinary Congress - the XIII - meets to review the events, situation and developments in the USSR and other socialist countries, as well as the process of restoration of monopoly capitalism in Portugal. Facing a full ideological onslaught the Party reaffirms its communist identity and ideal. Meeting after Congress, the Central Committee elects Álvaro Cunhal as General-Secretary and Carlos Carvalhas as Deputy-Secretary in a reorganisation of Party executives bodies.
Two years later, on 4, 5 and 6 December 1992, the XIV Congress meets in Almada. The International situation is completely new following the disappearance of the URSS and the defeat suffered by Socialism in the East of Europe. Cavaquism rules over Portugal and the rebuilding of monopoly is being extended. The PCP resists and commits itself to the course of struggles that will put an end to the domination of the PSD in the Government. The renewal of the Party leadership continues. Álvaro Cunhal is elected President of a new organ - the National Council. Carlos Carvalhas is elected as the Party's General-Secretary.
The 15th Congress was held on 6th-8th December 1996, in Oporto (Pavilhão Rosa Mota), with the participation of 1655 delegates.
The 15th Congress profoundly analysed the fundamental aspects of the evolution of the international and national situation in the last four years and discussed the defies to its further intervention.
Along with a solid and renewed connection to the identity and communist ideals which is the foundation of its own existence and the PCP’ struggle heritage, the PCP delineated important guide-lines and working orientations aimed at a stronger PCP in the threshold of the 21st Century, at its increasing affirmation as an agglutinating pole of the Left and a democratic alternative to the right-wing politics imposed previously by the PSD [Social Democratic Party] government and promoted by the PS [Socialist Party] since 1995 and aiming at a new way in the affirmation of its project for Democracy and Socialism in Portugal.
Culminating a sprightly and interested debate previously accomplished in all the PCP’s organisations, the 16th Congress, in the framework of the renewed reaffirmation of the identity and project of a communist party, carried out a large reflection and defined important guide-lines before the main problems and issues arisen by the national and international situation which are, at the threshold of a new Century and a new Millenium, of great complexity and exigency.
The PCP’ 17th Congress under the lemma "With the PCP, Democracy and Socialism in a Portugal with future" took place on the 26th-28th November, 2004, in the city of Almada.
The 17th Congress analysed the Party’s activity since the 16th Congress (December, 2000) and the party’s and the world’s evolution, and adopted the Political Resolution (with 10 votes against and ? abstentions) which enshrines the guide-lines for the Party’s activity, and effected alterations to the its Constitution (adopted with 3 votes against and 8 abstentions).
The holding of the 17th Congress - culminating a large and extended work of auscultation, discussion and individual and collective contributions of the PCP members aiming at the enrichment of the documents to be submitted to Congress’ consideration and decision - is the expression of a democratic practice without parallel in the Portuguese partisan life, which turns the documents into a true patrimony of the Party’s collective.
The Central Committee elected in the Congress elected Jerónimo de Sousa General Secretary of the Party.