December 11, 2022

The Future has a Party – PCP National Conference Concludes

R Arun Kumar

THE Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) held its Special National Conference in November 2022, two years after its 21st Congress. The Conference had two main points as its agenda – one, a review of the political situation in the country, assessments made by the Party Congress and the interventions of the PCP and two, election of a new general secretary.

The National Conference of the PCP is in a way a mid-term review, carried out in an extensive manner. The draft Political Resolution prepared for the Conference was discussed thoroughly within the Party. Delegates representing various local committees were elected to the National Conference. These elected delegates discussed the draft resolution and adopted it unanimously.

At the very outset, the Resolution notes that the evolution of the national and international situation ‘confirms the essential aspects identified at the 21st Congress of the Party’ held in November 2020. However, it also identified certain features that have accentuated in the intervening period. In the international arena, the Resolution notes the increasing ‘instability and uncertainty, imperialism's offensive’ and ‘its innate policy of confrontation and war’. There is also an increase in the ideological offensive carried out by imperialist forces justifying the deepening exploitation, attack on rights, freedoms and guarantees. At the national level, the Resolution notes worsening economic and social situation, along with the changes in the political framework in Portugal. One of the major developments is the majority secured by the social democratic party, PS, in the parliament and the growth of reactionary forces. These is accompanied by an anti-democratic offensive, with a strong anti-communist bent. These attacks are aimed to ‘limit the actions of the Party and mass organisations and attack the interests of the workers and people’.

The PCP observed that these developments placed ‘special demands on the organisation and intervention of the Party, on the struggle of the workers and the Portuguese people’. In order to meet these demands and the renewed offensive of the ruling classes, it stated that the Party ‘must carry out a meticulous assessment of the reality and accurately determine the guidelines, priorities and lines of political action and intervention that respond to the evolution of the situation’. Reflecting this understanding, the main slogan of the Conference was: ‘Taking the initiative, strengthening the Party, responding to the new demands’.

Elections to the parliament in Portugal saw a decline in the strength of the PCP. The social democratic party, PS gained, by projecting itself as the fighter against the growth of the reactionary, right-wing forces. The Resolution states that the very policies pursued by PS is leading to the growth of reactionary, right-wing and fascistic forces. Portugal is facing a prolonged crisis, with economic stagnation, significant rise in inflation, speculation, reduction in the purchasing power due to the refusal to increase wages and pensions and to regulate prices. The ruling classes are leading these attacks and are also encouraging the growth of the reactionary forces.

The PCP states that in this scenario the need is for an “alternative policy that confronts the right-wing policy resulting from the action of the PS government and reactionary forces and projects. An alternative patriotic and left-wing, that has to be affirmed, developed and deepened. A policy that promotes an increase in wages and pensions, enhances and reinforces the rights of workers, the social functions of the State and public services, fosters and increases national production, ensures public control of strategic companies and sectors, guarantees fair taxation, assumes the need for a harmonious relationship between human beings and nature, frees the country from submission to the Euro and the impositions and constraints of the EU and ensures national development and sovereignty, within a framework of defence of peace and cooperation among peoples’.

This ‘alternative, patriotic and Left-wing policy’, will be a “different path for the country, which is not subordinated to the interests of big capital, responds to the most pressing problems and paves the way to the deepening of democracy in its political, economic, social and cultural aspects, affirming the values of April in the future of Portugal”. Realising this requires the ‘strengthening of the Party and its connection to the masses, the intensification of the struggle of workers’, peope and the strengthening of mass organisations, as well as the coming together of ‘democrats and patriots’.

The PCP Resolution notes that as the capitalist exploitation increases, class struggle intensifies and so do the attacks on the Party. Undeterred by these attacks, the Resolution vows to adhere more firmly to its commitment to Marxism-Leninism, class struggle and stand by the interests of the working class.

The PCP self-critically admits that there are certain ‘difficulties, shortcomings, delays and deficiencies in the organisation’ and also in its intervention’. The Resolution exhorts the entire Party to work towards overcoming them ‘decisively and confidently’, especially given the ‘current situation and the demands it entails’.

The Conference resolved to strengthen the Party’s organisation. “The Party’s organisation is the fundamental tool for connecting workers and populations. The Party's political, social, ideological and electoral influence depends on this connection to the masses, knowledge of the reality and the problems they face and the ability to intervene in them. A strong, active organisation with initiative is crucial to reinforce this influence. It is the organisation – inseparable from the nature, from the goals of social transformation and from the PCP's revolutionary project – that gives material force to the Party's ideas, proposals and objectives of struggle”.

The Conference decided to increase PCP’s initiatives to launch struggles and identified certain key areas. These are: (i) taking initiative for a general increase in wages and break with the economic model that is based on low wages, precariousness and deregulation of working hours and the labour legislations associated with it; (ii) to promote the rights of children and parents as low wages, precariousness, unemployment, reduction in public services, together with the increasing costs of housing, food, daycare, education and health are having adverse impact on children and young people, especially on the children of workers; (iii) taking initiative, with the youth, for their rights, dreams and aspirations in defence of public, free and quality education, for the right to access higher education, for the end of tuition fees and mobilising the young workers for their rights – for the the right to work, healthcare, social security and housing, right to rest and free time, for the right to sport, leisure, cultural creation and enjoyment, against all discrimination and in defence of the environment; (iv) to improve pensions and for the right to age with quality of life; (v) to defend and uphold the social functions of the State and public services; (vi) to defend culture; (vii) to uphold national production; (viii) to defend environment and access to water; (ix) for the right to housing, mobility and public transport; (x) for peace and solidarity with peoples and (xi) to defend democracy and April values.

To ensure the success of all these initiatives the Conference decided to ‘develop and intensify the struggle of the workers and popular masses; to strengthen mass organisations and movements and liaison and work with other democrats and patriots’. To reaslise these objectives it was decided to  strengthen the Party by allocating more responsibilities and developing new cadres by their effective integration into ‘collective work, accompaniment by leadership bodies’, stimulating and harnessing ‘individual contribution and the involvement of militants in the discussion, decision and implementation of the goals promoting militancy and boosting the Party's intervention’.

“It is imperative to develop an action to strengthen leadership structures at various levels – from the central leadership to regional organisations, from intermediate structures to grassroots organisations – to ensure more capacity and availability, active cells and militant action, a stronger and more influential Party. The aim is to promote handing responsibilities to 1000 new cadres – especially blue-collar workers and other workers, young people and women – for regular tasks and Party organisations by the end of 2024”.

The Conference noted that political and ideological training is of ‘utmost importance’, and is ‘necessary to define and implement reinforced objectives of the annual cadre training plan (at national and regional levels)’. “The improvement of the style of work, including the adequate control of execution, is necessary for a broader action of the Party. The affirmation of the Party's identity, understanding and implementation of its operating principles are decisive aspects of its strength, which must be ensured”.

The Conference decided to attract new members to the Party with the slogan, ‘the future has a Party’. This recruitment would be done through the ‘integration of each one as a member of the Party, in militant intervention, in mass work, in organised action, on the basis of political appeal, of the work of every organisation and militant and new measures and actions in the coming years’.

The Conference decided to emphasise on recruiting more members from the working class, where due to the changes in the working conditions and workplace relations, it has become even more difficult for Party branches to function. In order to overcome these obstacles, it was decided to act on the experiences gained from its recent experiments. “The success of the recent action to give responsibilities to 100 comrades in this area and the creation of as many company cells reveals that it is possible to build a Party in the workplace, give responsibilities to new cadres, recruit and create new cells”. It decided to conduct a campaign under the slogan, ‘More strength for workers’, in the first months of 2023, culminating at the end of May. “The promotion of recruitment in a directed way, the functioning and creation of new cells, with an intervention content linked to the specificities of each sector, company or place of work, to the problems and aspirations of workers and to the dynamism of claiming action and struggle, the promotion of the sale of the party press and contact and agitation actions are elements that must be at the centre of a national action”.

The Conference also decided to strengthen local organisations by giving responsibilities to cadres, ‘rejuvenate active and leadership groups, improve the style of work and intervention, aiming at knowledge and action on the surrounding reality’. A decision increase agitation and propaganda campaigns, using all the available means – both physical and digital – was also taken. A campaign was planned to increase the subscription of its magazine, Avante.

In the end, the Resolution noted: “In the last hundred years there has not been any advance or achievement in our country that has not counted on the struggle and intervention of the communists. The PCP, with the struggle of the workers and the people, influenced and continues to influence the evolution of national life. This is not only a responsibility, but a duty that the PCP does not abdicate and that gives strength and confidence to resist and advance”.

The second agenda that was before the Conference was the ratification of the decision of the Central Committee of the PCP – the election of a new General Secretary. Jerónimo de Sousa, the general secretary elected in the 21st Congress expressed his desire to be relieved from his responsibilities due to poor health. The Central Committee had accepted his request and relieved him from his responsibilities, but continued him in the central committee.

46-year old, Paulo Raimundo was elected as the new general secretary. Raimundo comes from a poor working class family and he himself worked as a carpenter, baker and cultural animator. He became a member of the Party in 1994, elected to their Central Committee in 1996, Political Committee in 2000 and to the Secretariat and Political Committee in 2020. The Conference unanimously endorsed the decision of the Central Committee and confirmed his election.

Raimundo in his concluding speech stated: “We are not closing the Conference, with the adoption of the Resolution, we will continue our work on each and every one of the lines of intervention now decided, take the initiative, respond to the new demands and strengthen the Party that we want even more connected to life, and from there find more strength….Here, courage and strength emerged to continue to develop and intensify and encourage the struggle for rights; against speculation and the increase in the cost of living….We are not, nor do we want to be, alone in building a better life. We count on democrats and patriots, we count on our allies that we welcome from here, the Ecologist Party “The Greens” and the Democratic Intervention Association. We also count on thousands and thousands of people, many of them without a party, who accompany us in our daily struggle. A connection that must be developed and expanded in the most diverse areas and sectors”.

Talking about the organisational concerns that were discussed and decisions taken, he stated: “Here we do not hide our own shortcomings. We identified the problems, we criticised and self-criticised, but what stands out from this entire process is the confidence and determination to overcome difficulties and take advantage of all the potential that opens up. To resist and advance….what will determine in the present and in the future, is our ability to give responsibilities, to recruit and to be even more rooted in the masses. Give responsibilities to a thousand new cadres by the end of 2024, a demanding but challenging task there is so much task to be tackled and so much availability to be tackled….We have identified the needs, we have the action plan, the biggest challenge remains. With whom and how? The answer lies in audacity, creativity and persistence, and we will certainly find the solutions and availabilities for the needs we have”.

He concluded by calling upon the entire Party to: “Inform, open paths, give hope and confidence to our people and mobilise them, turn injustice into strength to fight. To fight for a better life, the life to which we are entitled, this is our role and the Conference has given that signal”.

To all those who are eagerly hoping for the death of the PCP, he warned: “There are those who drool and despair for the end of the PCP. Well, here's the advice, you can wait forever, because a Party linked to the workers, the populations, their problems and aspirations, determined to give them hope, a Party like that and as it was reaffirmed here at the Conference, the only thing to which it is doomed is to grow and expand its influence….This is a Party that counts and counts a lot. It counts in everyday life, it counts in the daily struggle, it counts, and it is increasingly necessary, for the workers, the people and the country. Moving forward is possible”.