Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary, Session “Álvaro Cunhal and the PCP”

The struggle is always necessary, because it and the strength that emanates from it that determines the evolution of events

The struggle is always necessary, because it and the strength that emanates from it that determines the evolution of events

First of all, I would like to thank you for your presence at this Public Session evoking the 107th. anniversary of the birth of Álvaro Cunhal, which, in this period of commemoration of the centennial of the Portuguese Communist Party, we decided to hold under the motto “Álvaro Cunhal and the PCP” and with it honour this central figure and major reference of our contemporary history.

We evoke Álvaro Cunhal, a remarkable personality of the Portuguese 20th. century and of the beginning of the present century, and it is the struggle of the workers and of our people and of their long-standing Party for freedom, democracy, for a sovereign development project, for a fairer and free from exploitation society that we summon, and that necessarily passes through here, because his life is inseparable from that struggle of which he was a prominent protagonist, to which he dedicated his whole life, always with the PCP. A struggle that he honoured with limitless generosity.

In a very large part of the life of the PCP, which on March 6, 2021 will be 100 years old, Álvaro Cunhal was part of it and participated, assuming the highest responsibilities in a Party that experienced the horrors and the tragedy of war and fascism. That stimulated the great struggles of the workers and took as its own the struggles of the oppressed peoples from all over the world. That assumed all the great causes and all the struggles against exploitation, oppression and inequality. That has always assumed the vanguard in the struggle for the achievement of the political, labour, social and cultural rights of our people. That was in the making and emergence of the April Revolution and at the forefront of its achievements and in their defence. That acted with determination to move the wheel of history towards progress, freedom, democracy and socialism. That has always been present, like no other, in these last 100 years, in times of resistance, transformation and advancement of Portuguese society.

Álvaro Cunhal lived with his Party a time of great combats, great challenges and thrilling undertakings, but also of great dangers and threats.

He lived closely linked to a Party that, in its hundred-year old trajectory, was a thousand times declared dead and a thousand times emerged renewed, determined and convinced at the forefront of the struggle of its people.

In these hundred years full of history and at the time when we evoke one of our finest, allow me to point out and exalt the role of successive generations of communists, the sacrifice and abnegation of many fallen in the struggle, their dedicated and intense militancy. This essential collective, the support of an exceptional intervention that has brought us here and shows a Party of women and men who never let themselves be, nor will be intimidated. Our tribute to all of them.

With a path of seventy years of uninterrupted combat, covered with indomitable determination and withstanding the most terrible and harsh trials in dozens of years of clandestine life and imprisonment, Álvaro Cunhal's personal story is the story of an extraordinary man, a convinced communist, of a multifaceted and experienced political leader, statesman and ideologist, with great repercussion and impact on Portuguese life and internationally.

It is the story of a life that is intertwined with the life and struggle of the Portuguese communists who are proud to have had him as their General Secretary, with an intervention that marked the Party, this Party that would also reciprocally mark the man who with his unique personality and the full-bodied revolutionary that we recognize and who inspires, stimulates and impels us in the continuation of the combat that was his and is ours today in pursuit of the realisation of the communist ideal and project, of a just, free and fraternal world .

First of all, as the greatest example of the selfless combatant of a Party that he helped to build, with an invaluable personal contribution, with the identity that we are proud to possess, preserve and affirm.

A Party that from an early age would be subjected to the toughest tests. Only five years old and as a result of the military coup of May 28, 1926 that paved the way for the establishment of fascism in Portugal, was prohibited, persecuted and forced to act in the most severe clandestinity.

It was to this Party, still young and frail, that faced enormous difficulties and obstacles that Álvaro Cunhal joined, he was then 17 years old.

We were in 1931. It was, as he said, a conscious, rational joining that led him to seek the Party, because looking at the reality of the country and of the world that the readings brought him and his own look grasped, decided and made the option not to stay out of the great struggles of his time, making the option of the rights of the exploited and oppressed, to give himself entirely to the emancipatory cause of the workers and peoples.

A time that was not only that of a hard and dangerous conjuncture that the world was going through, as a result of the advance of fascism and the great crisis of capitalism of 1929/1933, but also, and essentially, that of a time when the possibility of building a new society was foreseen - the time of the transition from capitalism to socialism - and that the first victorious October Socialist Revolution had opened, to assert itself as the central combat of our time.

A time of sharp exacerbation of the contradictions between labour and capital and which will also mark the beginning of a new phase of the struggle of the workers' movement, of new forms and methods of mass struggle, of learning, of organic, ideological and political strengthening of workers' organisations.

A time of change also in the content of political intervention, which was soon materialising in the decisions that would lead to the implementation of the solutions of the United Front of the working class, aiming at their unity in action and the formation of the Popular Fronts against fascism, reaction and war and that under the conditions of the dictatorship in Portugal would result in the development of the anti-fascist unity movement and the capture from within of the single unions of the fascist regime, a front of struggle in which Álvaro Cunhal will get involved with his theoretical production , and of great originality, in response to the specificity of the Portuguese situation and which will create the conditions for the emergence of Intersindical, in 1970.

Hard times, which young Álvaro Cunhal followed and looked at, not only with indignant apprehension for what it meant in terms of destruction of lives and suffering for millions of human beings, but with the determination of those who do not just wait and see the world but take action to transform it, taking sides.

Taking sides by someone who soon realised that this was a collective task that required a new type of party, ideologically solid, independent, with class convictions, combative, linked to the masses, to their problems and their aspirations - a Leninist party.

A party that the April 1929 Conference and with Bento Gonçalves, a young man, like himself, 27 years old and General Secretary of the PCP, already planned to build, boldly turning to the working class, promoting an organisation capable of acting in clandestinity, creating a clandestine press - Avante! and O Militante -, and truly starting a mass activity.

Taking sides based on an ideal that clearly appears in his youth texts from this period. The awareness of this taking sides, which was taking sides with the class and of action against the injustice and violence of capitalist domination, is expressed in his statement, in a contention about the position of the artist, when he stated “Humanity has come to a crossroads. The moment is not conducive to long hesitations. Each one has to choose a path: one way or the other. History does not stop and humanity follows. The big problem is the direction it will take. It is up to men to choose and decide. (…) The fate of the world is at stake…. ”

A call that cannot be disconnected also from the perception of the advance of Nazi-fascism and the danger of the outbreak of a new and terrible war that was on the horizon.

Today when capitalism is faced with the deepening of its structural crisis that the pandemic accelerated and enhanced, exposing in all its crudeness its nefarious consequences, with the intensification of exploitation, the condemnation of millions of people to unemployment and extreme poverty, leaving millions to their fate with the disease, without responding to the lack of housing and healthy diet, salubrity, education or culture, they tells us how topical it is and it is urgent to expand this appeal by taking sides in a fight for humanity that capitalism, by its nature, is unable to assume and respond.

Yes, the deepening of its structural crisis is showing that capitalism is not only unable to solve the problems of the workers and peoples, but tends to heighten them and drag the world into a terrible social and civilizational regression where there are huge dangers and dark pages with which Humanity has already suffered so much.

But those thirties of Álvaro Cunhal's adherence to the PCP were undoubtedly a period of hard combats that called for iron-clad courage to face them.

Tough battles that the Party then began to take in its hands, organising the struggle, in a titanic effort of bonding with the masses and their problems, but also the Communist Youth that soon after, in the mid-thirties, would have Álvaro Cunhal as General Secretary of the organisation, and who assumed, with his comrades in leadership, the important task of the radical reconstruction of the Federation of Portuguese Communist Youths.

We are at the beginning of a long path of intervention and struggle that he will walk with indomitable determination and great abnegation, resisting the most terrible and hardest tests along dozens of years of clandestine life and imprisonment that began in 1935, as a cadre of the Party, and when he had to face with astonishing courage the torture and brutal violence of the political police of an unscrupulous dictatorship.

After years of repressive blows that seriously affected the Party, Álvaro Cunhal, already a member of the Central Committee, participates in the reorganisation of the PCP in 1940/41, which turns the PCP into a great national party, of the working class, of the workers and leader of the struggle of anti-fascist resistance, in a process where his contribution is unquestionable during the period that goes until his arrest in 1949 for the conception, construction and consolidation of the PCP as a revolutionary, Marxist-Leninist party.

A contribution of great value, namely for the definition of the identity and essential characteristics of a communist party, as well as for the conception of the Party, as a great active and participating collective, in which collective work is seen as an “essential basic principle of the Party's style of work” and central aspect of internal democracy.

Problems that will always be a central concern and object of new developments in his theoretical production and that are well patent in his work “The Party with Glass Walls”, written in 1985 and which is the most profound theoretical reflection of Álvaro Cunhal as builder of the Party and that had a wide repercussion in the international communist movement.

At the political level, his contribution and role in the elaboration of the Party's strategy and tactics is widely recognised. From the outset, in his interventions at the III and IV Party Congresses. In the remarkable text on the 1956/59 right-wing deviation. Then, in this brilliant contribution, already as General Secretary of the PCP, for the definition of the Programme for the “Democratic and National Revolution”, with the “Road to Victory”, given the overall vision that it holds, the rigour and accuracy of the analysis , the correctness and realism in the perspective, tasks and guidelines that life fully proved and that unquestionably created conditions for the April Revolution and the profound revolutionary transformations in Portuguese society.

Álvaro Cunhal, a man of revolutionary action and intervention, was the bearer of a prolific theoretical production, based on the theories and method of analysis of Marxism-Leninism that he assimilated in a creative way to answer the problems of Portuguese society.

In fact, Álvaro Cunhal played a role of foremost importance in the study and theorization of the revolutionary process in Portugal, embodied in his theoretical work and in the fighting heritage of his long revolutionary activity. One of the reasons for this is due to a correct understanding of the legacy of the founders of Marxism, which he viewed as "a science linked to life and the conditions of time and place, a science that is enriched with new experiences and new knowledge".

It was with this open, anti-dogmatic concept of Marxism-Leninism, according to which it provides the theoretical foundations for study and action but does not give ready-made prescriptions, but rather requires as a condition of its development and effectiveness the concrete analysis of reality having the perspective of its revolutionary transformation, which enabled Álvaro Cunhal to move from the description and conjunctural denunciation of fascism to the conceptual understanding of the structural process of the development of capitalism in Portugal and to provide the Party with an objectively based guideline to carry out the revolutionary tasks it proposed.

It was thus that he showed that the class essence of the fascist regime and its policy that had provided Portuguese capitalism with its originality, as evidenced in the report to the VI Congress and in the elaboration of the aforementioned Programme for the Democratic and National Revolution in which , the construction of a Democratic State being the primary objective of the revolution, the liquidation of the power of the monopolies and of imperialism associated with them was the necessary correlate and condition for its viability and survival.

That is, a revolution that, due to its structural determinants, would have to go beyond a democratic-bourgeois revolution because it incorporated profound economic and social transformations that, in the process of its implementation and given the determining role in it of the vast popular masses, would create conditions for the socialist revolution.

The achievements that would be attained with the 25th of April, as Álvaro Cunhal shows in The Portuguese Revolution. The Past and the Future, - due to the decisive role that the initiative of the popular masses had in them, due to its nature of emergency to cut the pace and put an end to counter-revolutionary manoeuvres, due to their scope, creating a non-capitalist determining sector in the economy that pointed to socialism - ten years after The Road to Victory, demonstrated the correct understanding of the objective dialectic of the dynamics of the development of capitalism in Portugal and the correctness of the revolutionary theory based on it, guiding the direction to be taken for revolutionary action.

This understanding and this correctness reveal that Álvaro Cunhal knew - and would know it throughout his life side by side with the unfolding of the historical outcome – to creatively apply the scientific socialism of Marx, Engels and Lenin, which he studied in depth, to the historical reality of Portuguese capitalism in conjunction with the practical experience of the revolutionary struggle of the working class and all workers.

In fact, the April Revolution was an extraordinary confirmation of the analyses and perspectives and guidelines pointed out in the Programme for the Democratic and National Revolution.

In Álvaro Cunhal, the field of politics as a science and the art of leading the revolutionary struggle were united and flowed with mastery, which clearly appears in the response to the complex and original problems that the Revolution posed since its first moment.

First of all, in response to this central question in every revolution - the question of political power that the Portuguese Revolution faced. The masses had the strength to impose great revolutionary achievements, but failed to create a corresponding revolutionary power.

A weakness explored by the counter-revolution, with the support of social democracy its ally and by all those who would later lead, through their governments, the process of capitalist restoration and monopolist recovery after 1976 - the PSD, the CDS and the PS - and interrupt the revolutionary process without the important objectives defined for the stage of the Democratic and National Revolution being materialised.
Governments of right-wing policies and monopolistic restoration that allowed new and old economic and financial groups to once again dominate the economy and the country, in a process of increasing subordination of political power to economic power with serious and brutal economic, social and political consequences.

A prolonged action aimed at promoting an outrageous centralisation and concentration of wealth in favour of monopoly capital.

Governments that with their policy of subservience to large national and foreign economic groups condemned the national productive sectors, that weakened the country, aggravating its main structural deficits, which led with this policy to a situation of prolonged regression that is expressed in prolonged situations of economic stagnation and recession, worsening external debt and social problems, increasing injustices and social inequalities

It is in the context of an unfinished Revolution and a brutal offensive for years against its achievements, a Revolution that did not manage to free Portugal permanently from monopoly domination and foreign submission, in an aggravated framework of capitalist integration in the European Union, that Álvaro Cunhal and the PCP, anchored in solidly grounded and updated knowledge, project future revolutionary action and intervention based on the reality transformed by the April Revolution and to respond to the new and complex problems posed by the evolution of the national and international situation.

A knowledge and an application that are present in the elaboration and definition of the structural features of the Programme of an Advanced Democracy proposed by the PCP to the Portuguese, today named: “An Advanced Democracy - The values of April in the future of Portugal”.

A Programme whose topicality remains and which the Party recognises as a project of the future for the country, as confirmed by the debate on the preparation of the XXI Congress that the PCP will hold at the end of this month. A Congress that, it should be overemphasised assumes an even greater importance in the demanding and complex framework in which we live and struggle and, as always, we will know how to carry out in line with our responsibilities and the role we play in Portuguese society.

It is a pride for our party collective that the Party Programme that guides us in the combats of the future also has the mark of Álvaro Cunhal's contribution and knowledge.

A programme to unequivocally resume the path of April, proceed to progressive achievements of a non-capitalist character, freeing the country once and for all from the domination of monopoly capital and foreign submission and reverse the course of a policy that has led the country to great dependence.

A strategic programme for the materialisation of a true programme for the development of the country in the present historical stage, an integral and constitutive part of the struggle for socialism and whose implementation is equally inseparable from the struggle we are currently engaged in for the materialisation of the rupture with the right-wing policy and materialisation of a patriotic and left-wing policy.

This struggles that we are waging today, combining a demanding struggle for the affirmation and materialisation of the patriotic and left-wing alternative policy - a central and decisive issue to respond to the serious and persistent national problems that remain postponed, with a daily combat sustained in the action and struggle of the masses by raising the living conditions of the workers and people.

Álvaro Cunhal left us 15 years ago, but many of the struggles he waged together with his Party, we still have them in hand and his analyses and contributions are still echoing with redoubled topicality. Therefore, to evoke his memory is not just talking about the past, it is also talking about the present struggle and about the future.

In fact, the heritage that he bequeathed to us, his work, his analyses, the ability to foresee the future, continue to impress us by his identification with the reality of our days, namely those that contributed to the understanding of the dangers that threaten Portugal as a nation, as a result of right-wing policies and the submission of the dominant classes to foreign interests.

It would suffice to look at his last writings to see how the main lines of his thought remain topical and how they continue to be an important instrument and starting point for the analysis of new phenomena and new events in national and international life in recent years, namely in relation to the evolution of the process of capitalist integration in the European Union, to the march of imperialist globalisation that imposes and sets aside to the national space an increasingly secondary, subordinate and empty role of sovereign and democratic decision of the peoples, by enhancing the exploitative, oppressive, parasitic and aggressive nature of the capitalist system, with the deepening of its structural crisis, which is associated with a brutal offensive aimed at turning back and liquidating achievements and rights won by the workers and peoples throughout the 20th. century.

A whole reality that required a rigorous reflection to which Álvaro Cunhal and our Party paid particular attention and which led to the need to place first, as a central point of Portuguese policy, the defence and ensuring of independence and national sovereignty and which today remains a central issue of the alternative policy that the PCP proposes to the country.

And see how certain are his analyses and forecasts about the consequences of Portugal joining the EEC and the resulting process of integration. A process led by large national and foreign economic groups and largely determined by the aim of restoring monopoly capitalism that led the country along the paths of national submission.

Submission that deepens and assumes a particular sharpness in recent years with the evolution of the integration process in the European Union. An evolution marked by the accelerated deepening of its neoliberal, federalist and militarist course which in recent years has seen a new impetus with the Economic and Monetary Union and the Euro, but also with the development of new instruments of political and economic domination - such as economic governance, the European semester or the so-called Budgetary Treaty - and which all together aim to create a framework of absolute constraint to any project of own, autonomous and sovereign development of countries like Portugal.

Yes, there is no national problem, there is no question or issue to deal with what matters to the Portuguese, small or large, that does not go to Brussels, from TAP to CTT, from Novo Banco and banking to the Stability Programme, from budget options to Recovery Program, it is the criteria of the big transnational capital and the directory of the great powers that determine what serves and does not serve the country. It is the permanent constraints and conditionings that bind us hand and foot and which translate into a systematic interference in the life of the country and its options.

As Álvaro Cunhal and the PCP warned, the European Union, the Economic and Monetary Union and the Euro and this process of integration conceived and implemented as an instrument of domination of the European continent by big capital, were not, and will not be, the salvation of the Country, rather, they are confirmed as an obstacle to the sovereign development of Portugal and to the living conditions of the Portuguese.

Likewise there is no solution to solve national problems with the right-wing policy of monopolist restoration and consolidation that, in Portugal, successive governments have implemented and the PS government has not abandoned, subjected to the constraints imposed from abroad and the same designs and interests.

It is this viewpoint, it is these options and designs that are underlying in the proposal for the State Budget for 2021, determined more by the reduction of the deficit than by the solution of the serious problems of the workers, the people and the country.

Today, now that the country is faced with the worsening of its old structural problems as a result of the epidemic and important sectors of society say that it is urgent to learn lessons from the bitter reality that this has revealed, a look at the vast heritage of analysis and proposal of these last years, either by Álvaro Cunhal or the PCP would lead them to find the answer to many of their concerns and doubts, namely regarding the importance of having modern and efficient public services or the importance of national production and the country's need not to disregard the aim of ensuring its food sovereignty and having the strategic sectors in its hands, an aspect that deserves a central attention in the works of Álvaro Cunhal and that had the underlying concern of affirming the maximum economic independence to guarantee national independence.

In relation to this issue, the PCP has been practically alone for years, drawing attention to the need to prioritize the defence and development of the national productive sectors, including the reindustrialisation of the country, its modernisation and diversification, taking advantage and using its own resources, in order to produce here what we were forced to buy abroad and not be so dependent on sectors subject to great volatility, as is the case of tourism.

The country would be better prepared today to face this and other difficulties and to grow and develop if these proposals were considered.

A teaching that Álvaro Cunhal bequeathed to us with his word and his example and of reinforced usefulness in these times of instillation of fear and limitations of rights and freedom is that, whatever the circumstances existing in each moment, the struggle is always necessary - and it is always worth it, because it will be the force that ultimately emanates from it that determines the evolution of events.

At a time when the construction of the alternative requires the development of a broad social front of struggle, as one of the determining factors for its implementation. In this time when the shadow and the pretext of the epidemic jeopardise essential rights and freedoms, the struggle cannot be locked down!

Being where the masses are, working and learning from them, and acting with them in defence of their interests, was the watchword that the PCP put forward from the beginning and Álvaro Cunhal gave particular attention and that today maintains full topicality.

That is why it is important to pay attention to all struggles, small and large, to be there to stimulate, to support, to give strength and solidarity to those who struggle, as the workers of the Common Front of the Public Administration Trade Unions do, with a national demonstration scheduled for the coming 13th. To them our full support!

We remember here today an intrepid combatant who gave himself with determined abnegation to the cause of the workers and his people, to the cause of freedom, democracy and socialism. To the causes that are also part of his everlasting Party.

A fascinating figure, Álvaro Cunhal remains a major example of the selfless combatant of a Party whose history is intertwined with the history of the people's struggle in the last century.

A history that honours us and that we want to continue to honour because this is a Party that never turned away from the struggle. A Party whose militants have shown unparalleled abnegation.

A Party not only to resist, but to move forward, which is the bearer of that hope that does not wait, raised in the concrete struggle makes the dream a reality, always, always with the workers and the people, carrying their transformative and emancipating project!

To evoke again Álvaro Cunhal is to remember a life lived with his head held high, made of verticality, coherence and courage, of unending search for paths to overcome injustice and inequalities with the weapons of culture, knowledge and political intervention and the daily collective action in the search for the fulfilment of that millennial dream of building a society free from exploitation and oppression.

That dream that gave meaning to Álvaro Cunhal's life and that continues to give meaning to our lives today!