Portuguese Communist Party

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Portuguese Communist Party


(PCP; Partido Comunista Português), founded in March 1921 and joined the Comintern in 1922. It was outlawed after the military coup d’etat of 1926 and went underground. In those years the party was weak and small, and its leaders were not free of anarcho-syndicalist influences. A national party conference, held in April 1929, initiated the PCP’s transformation into a genuine Marxist-Leninist party. In subsequent years the party gained considerable strength in the trade union movement and played a major role in organizing and leading a number of large strikes and political demonstrations. In 1935 many party leaders, including B. Gonsalves, the general secretary, were arrested. In 1940–41, A. Cunhal and several other prominent PCP leaders reorganized the party with the aim of stepping up its activity, strengthening its ties with the masses, and cleansing it of alien elements.

The Third Congress of the PCP, held in November 1943, emphasized the need to strengthen the alliance of the workers’ and antifascist forces. The Congress elected for the first time a central committee as an organ of collective leadership (before the Congress the party only had a secretariat). After the Congress the party, overcoming the difficulties of operating underground, took part in the work of legal and clandestine organizations that united various antifascist forces and became more active in the national syndicates. A major problem that confronted the Portuguese Communists after World War II was the overthrow of the fascist dictatorship. The Fourth (July 1946), Fifth (September 1957) and Sixth (August and September 1965) Congresses of the PCP focused on this problem.

The Sixth Congress adopted a new program and made changes in the bylaws (the party’s first program and bylaws had been adopted at the Fifth Congress). The new program called for the armed overthrow of the fascist regime, without, however, ruling out a peaceful solution to the national problem if a favorable balance of forces should permit such a solution. The program’s major demands included the abolition of the monopolies, the nationalization of the main branches of the economy, an agrarian reform transferring the land to those who till it, far-reaching social changes in the interest of the overwhelming majority of the people, and the granting of independence to the peoples of Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique. The ultimate goal of the PCP, as stated in its program, is the construction of socialism and communism in Portugal.

In the 1960’s and the early 1970’s the PCP, despite severe persecution, led several strikes of industrial and agricultural workers and took an active part in demonstrations against the fascist regime. In 1962 the party led a strike of agricultural workers in southern Portugal, the largest strike in the period of the fascist dictatorship, involving some 200,000 people. The workers won their demand for an eight-hour workday. After the overthrow of the fascist dictatorship in Portugal on Apr. 25, 1974, the Communists joined the government. Setting as its goal the unification of democratic forces, the PCP holds that a constant readiness to repulse possible uprisings of the supporters of the overthrown fascist dictatorship is necessary for the consolidation and further development of the democratic gains of the people.

The Seventh (Extraordinary) Congress of the PCP, held on Oct. 20, 1974, emphasized that to ensure the success of the revolution, it was necessary to create and strengthen a democratic state, to complete decolonization, and to achieve economic stability. The Congress noted that these goals could only be attained if the popular masses, the progressive political parties, and democratic organizations worked hand in hand with the armed forces. In view of the new situation, the Congress introduced changes in the program and bylaws of the PCP.

Table 1. Congresses of the Portuguese Communist Party
First.....................LisbonNovember 1923
Second ...................LisbonMay 1926
Third...................... November 1943
Fourth..................... July 1946
Fifth ...................... September 1957
Sixth ...................... August-September 1965
Seventh (Extraordinary) .........LisbonOct. 20, 1974

PCP delegations attended the international conferences of Communist and workers’ parties held in Moscow in 1957, 1960 and 1969. The PCP approved the documents adopted at the conferences.

Under the present bylaws, the PCP is organized on the principle of democratic centralism. The highest organ of the PCP is the party Congress, and in the intervals between Congresses it is the Central Committee, which elects from among its members the Executive Commission and the Secretariat. A. Cunhal is the general secretary of the party. The main press organ of the PCP is the newspaper Avante!


Cunhal, A. Put’ k pobede. Moscow, 1967. (Translated from Portuguese.)
“Programa do Partido Comunista Português.” Avante, 1965.
“Programa do Partido Comunista Português.” Avante, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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