Statement Secretariat of the Central Committee

On the decisions that have been taken, regarding the violation of the Party Constitution’s principles and rules by some Party members

1. The Party has long been facing a violent and persistent campaign of distortions and falsifications, concerning its principles, activity and fundamental guidelines, which has sought to affect its prestige and influence among the workers and society, make its political activity more difficult, break down its unity and bring about its organisational disintegration.

This campaign has been fed, stimulated and organised by Party members, who have sponsored and taken part in public political events, in clear confrontation with the Party collective, outside and in opposition to, the Party’s organisational structure and Constitution and to the deliberations of the Party’s 16th Congress.

This process, which has known various episodes since the 16th Congress, has acquired a new and more serious dimension since the December [2001] local elections, with undeniable harm for the Party’s entire activity throughout the first few months of this year and with profoundly negative repercussions in the March [2002] general elections.

2. These Party members seek to present themselves as victims of persecution for «crimes of opinion». They claim that the Party Leadership’s restrained public statements and the decision to begin disciplinary proceedings represent a «persecutory and Stalinist rage» against mere «differences» and «divergent points of view» concerning the Party’s political guidelines, organisation and functioning.

In reality, those who behave in this way know, through their own experience of dozens of years of Party membership, that differing or even divergent points of view have never prevented members from taking on responsibilities, even very high-level responsibilities, within the PCP. In reality, those who behave in this way know that, contrarily to their claims, we are not confronted with mere, natural and inevitable issues of opinion, or with their occasional public expression, but with behaviours and attitudes that, in a systematic and prolonged way, frontally violate the PCP’s constitutional principles and rules, ethics and inner-Party democracy.

In reality, those who behave in this way know that in the PCP there are no «crimes of opinion», and that it is through frank and fraternal debate and exchange of points of view that debates are held and decisions reached.

They know, from their long years of Party membership, that their points of view, as those of many thousands of Party members, have always been incorporated into the Party’s assessments, decisions and resolutions, naturally and logically respecting the democratically expressed majority will in those exceptional cases where it was necessary to take a vote.

In reality, those who seek to justify their behaviour in this way have no other goal but that of trying to cloak attitudes and behaviours which they know full well run counter to the PCP’s rules of operation and Constitution.

What these Party members know, but do not accept, is that their points of view do not have majority support. They do not accept that those points of view should be incorporated into the debate and subject to the natural dispute between differing points of view which, under equal circumstances, are assessed for what they are worth and democratically decided by the various Party collectives, including the Party Congress, rather than by the public notoriety of those who defend them, or by the outside support which they may count upon. Those who behave in this way know that what they call «crime of opinion» is merely a fig leaf to hide their refusal to accept that their minority point of view is not being imposed upon the majority which disagrees with it.

It is not acceptable for the importance that is attached to the collective debate to be measured according to, or depending on, the acceptance of one’s own points of view. Understandably, it is also not acceptable that someone, displeased because his/her own opinions do not win over the Party collective, may seek to impose them in confrontation with the Party’s rules of operation and constitutional principles. As they have sought to do with the operation involving the «petitions» and «dinners», in confrontation with the regular meetings of Party members and the assessment of a collective opinion in their Party organisations and bodies, and with the unacceptable blackmail of texts, statements and interviews in the mass media, in confrontation with a natural and democratic circulation of points of view and the reaching of decisions within the Party’s structure.

In the PCP, no one challenges anyone’s right to change their opinion. To do so is an act that is only up to each individual. What is demanded is that this be framed in a frontal gesture of recognition that their opinions have changed and, above all, that there is no attempt to impose upon all others the changed opinions that have been, in the meantime, adopted. No one can accuse, attack and offend those who, coherently with their previous opinions, choose to continue defending those points of view that, until recently, were also the points of view that they defended. No one can accuse, attack and offend those who, with the democratic legitimacy and authority bestowed upon them by the Party Constitution and Congress, respect and enforce the inner-Party democracy that exists in the Party collective.

3. These party members have sought to justify their activities and positions as a contribution towards «the renewal and strengthening of the PCP». The most elementary common sense and mere observation of these Party members’ activities are the clearest denial of the alleged «concern for the Party» with which they have tried to justify illegitimate attitudes and practices that run counter to the Party Constitution.

In fact, those who:

– throughout these past months, have repeatedly and systematically behaved in a way that not only violates constitutional rules and norms of operation, causing unease, perturbations and disorientation in the Party collective, but have done so knowingly, because for years they themselves freely and knowingly respected and enforced those rules, which are typical of political militancy;

– for months have poured offence and slander upon the PCP and insults upon its Leadership, ranging from «terrorist» to «clique»;

– for months have distorted the PCP’s positions and guidelines – charging it with «preferring the right» and a «bigger evil», and of «preventing a left-wing agreement» – thereby blaming it for the right-wing advance and cleansing the Socialist Party and its Government for their many months of right-wing policies;

– for many months have tarnished the PCP’s image and its democratic inner-Party life – labelling them «Stalinist», «persecutory», «inquisitorial» – thereby feeding the prejudice against the Party, with clear harm for the appeal of its message and proposals;

– from December 2001 to March 2002, in full electoral period, did not shy away from undertaking operations of diversion («the convening of an Extraordinary [Party] Congress») and publicized violent diatribes against the lists of PCP candidates [in those elections] that were chosen by the competent Party collectives, thereby enabling the mass media to dwell on the news, comments and analyses relating to inner-Party life, rather than on the PCP’s proposals, policies and electoral events;

– during this same period, refused to make use of the enormous media attention that was given to them to call for and defend a vote for the CDU [electoral coalition which includes the PCP], rather displaying, in general, an incomprehensible detachment and ambiguous stands, which could only lead to votes for the Socialist Party or the Left Block;

– after the March 17 general elections, exploited in a shocking and active way the sadness and concern of many thousands of Communists for the poor electoral results and for the return of the right-wing to power;

– those who have, long and systematically, acted in this way cannot expect from the Party collective anything short of an assessment that this activity had no other goal than to cause serious harm to the Party, to its cohesion, unity and democratic life, to its image and political and social influence, to its operationality.

4. Those Party members know, due to their own long Party experience, that the PCP’s Constitution is an indispensable instrument of the utmost political importance, that is necessary to underpin and provide cohesion to the common work of all those who, in a voluntary way, decided to join the PCP.

Much more than a list of rules and disciplinary measures, the PCP’s Constitution is an essential instrument to guarantee the political and organizational unity of a Party which, insofar as it exists to defend the interests of the workers and of the people and to change society, has in its organisation the main tool for its political activity.

Each and every Party member has to know that the acceptance of the Party’s Program and Constitution is a requirement for Party membership. Those who openly violate and confront that Constitution do so as if the voluntarily act of joining the Party did not imply, for all those who wish to do so, a set of duties and rights.

As if it were admissible that in a Party someone could have all the rights and no duties. As if it were admissible that someone could wish to join a Party and want to have a public political activity like that of a non-Party member. As if it were admissible to confuse and overlap general [national] Constitutional rights and the specific rights and duties that are established in the Party’s Constitution. For example, neither the country’s Constitution, nor the law, forbids a member of Party A from running in the elections on the lists of Party B, but no one would accept, from a political or Party point of view, that this can be the case, nor that this is ethically admissible. In this case, the country’s Constitutional framework is naturally and logically limited by the Party duty of not harming the Party to which one belongs.

Those who act in disrespect for the Party’s rules and Constitutional principles argue that these are neither immutable nor permanent. They do so, not because they don’t know that until they are changed (and changed in accordance with the political pact that the Party Constitution represents: in a Congress, and a Congress that is held according to those rules), they are the rules that are in effect, but because they seek, through that argument, to act in a total void, outside those rules and norms to which they, as Party members, are bound.

5. Those Party members know that the deliberations of the 16th Congress and the Leadership that was elected there has a democratic legitimacy that is recognized by the Party. It should be noted that, with a single exception, none of those Party members challenged this legitimacy until very recently. Therefore, when now, within the framework of a campaign against the Party, they insinuate or even state that there is «illegitimacy» or even an «assault on the Leadership by a clique», they offend the whole Party, the tens of thousands of members who, with their opinions, contributed to define the PCP’s guidelines, and the sovereignty of decision of the over fifteen hundred elected delegates who adopted them.

It has to be noted that those who insist, blatantly disrespecting the Party’s normal functioning, on imposing the idea that partisan legitimacy lies with all those who act outside the Party Constitution, organisational structures and guidelines, and that it is the Leadership that was democratically elected at the 16th Congress that is illegitimate, are precisely those who, in secret, have self-appointed themselves as a leading nucleus for an activity geared towards creating tendencies and factionalism, resorting to sites on the Internet to spread, often anonymously, offences and slander.

It must also be noted that there is a strange view defended by some: that the Party Leadership does not have the right to state its case and clarify issues, even in the pages of [the Party newspaper] «Avante!” because in so doing it would be exerting illegitimate pressure, harassing and intimidating Party members, whilst the numerous pressures and systematic accosting which these Party members undertake on other Party members, so as to have them sign or give their support to texts and actions conceived in a group activity, are acceptable.

6. These Party members know that the PCP, honouring and never reneging on its 81-year long trajectory of struggle, is proud and values the particularly outstanding and self-sacrificed contribution of generations of Communists, many of whom gave their lives for the cause of freedom and socialism.

But this can in no case mean that the individual legacy of struggle, dedication, courage and sacrifice, however large, and whomever the Party member in case, may serve as a justification or alibi, or even less as granting a status of immunity in relation to serious breaches of the Party Constitution. On the contrary, they can only enhance the responsibility for a more exemplary respect for the Party’s rules. They cannot add rights to any Party member, but merely bring more ethical and political responsibilities.

Viewing itself as a large and fraternal Party collective, and viewing collective work as a fundamental trait of its identity, the PCP never denied the role or the individual merits of its members in building the Party and carrying out the struggle. But it equally always had a critical attitude in relation to the presumption and individualism of those who claim for themselves merits and prominent roles which, in truth, cannot be separated from the legacy of joint work, experience, analysis and mutual assistance of the entire Party collective.

It is not surprising to see the praise that is today heaped upon some Party members who systematically confront the Party’s guidelines and Leadership, those same members who were belittled and attacked when their action was part and parcel of the Party’s normal functioning and when they publicly expressed the PCP’s point of view.

What is strange and profoundly regrettable is the presumptuous self-praise which tends to ignore the collective, to measure degrees of dedication and merit, to present the Party with “invoices of dedication”. All the more so, since the honourable past is used to belittle and denigrate other Party leaders, to illegitimately solicit solidarities, to justify confrontations with the Party guidelines and Leadership.

7. Throughout the past few months, and in particular after the local government elections, everything was done by the Party Leadership to ensure that the natural differences of opinion in the analysis of the election results and of future prospects for the PCP could be inserted and evolve within a natural and logical debate and assessment, respecting the Party’s Constitution and organisation and in accordance with the inner-Party rules defined by the Communists.

Despite these efforts by the Leadership, and after the recent decision to initiate disciplinary proceedings, there are those who think that these efforts are insufficient, that the time given for debate is short, and that the measures now taken are hasty. Regardless of possible shortcomings, it must be said that an attempt was made to go as far as possible in opening up space for debate (adding to the huge and permanent open space which the regular and democratic functioning of the Party collective already represents), in managing the political time available (even when this could harm the Party’s political activity), in the efforts to revert towards collective work those behaviours and attitudes which clearly countered or affronted the party Constitution.

In fact, immediately after the local government elections, the Central Committee, in assessing the results on December 18, 2001, called upon «all organisations and members to, in strengthening inner-Party democratic life, contribute and take part in the necessary collective and individual assessment that may help to form ideas, opinions and guidelines for work (...)».

On January 19, the Central Committee «reaffirms the importance of each member’s contribution, with their analysis and points of view, and the respect for the constitutional principles which were democratically adopted, and which are the foundations of the Party’s functioning and are valid for all».

Immediately after the March [2002] general elections, the Central Committee, in deciding to convene «a National Conference of the Party regarding the new political framework and the tasks to strengthen the Party’s activity and influence», considered that it «should culminate a broad process of participation of Party members and of expression of their points of view and contributions (whether in the meetings of their organisations and bodies, or in other events for analysis and debate)».

On April 9, 2002, the Political Committee, while criticising the so-called «Fraternity Dinner», held in Lisbon, insisted and called upon «all members so that, through their analysis and participation, they may contribute towards the preparatory work for the National Conference and to strengthen the Party’s organisation and activity». This appeal is reiterated by the statement of the Central Committee meeting of April 13 and 14.

Later, during the national Conference, whether in the inaugural statement or in the closing statement by the PCP’s General Secretary, or in the Political Resolution that was adopted, it is stressed that there is a need to «re-establish, preferably through the Party members’ voluntary attitude, the bonds of fraternity, solidarity, loyalty and integration of legitimate individual opinions within a collective analysis and work that is an ethical and political imperative resulting from the Party Constitution which all Party members, regardless of acceptable disagreements, have vowed to accept.

It should be stressed and noted that a central topic of the campaign that is being waged against the PCP, and a permanent idea and argument defended by some Party members – the convening of a Congress as the adequate space for debate – was analysed in the January 19 Central Committee meeting, which considered that there was «no basis for the convening of an extraordinary Congress». During the preparatory debate, and during the Conference itself, the issue was raised once again. The consultative vote taken [during the Conference] fully supported and sustained the decision taken by the Central Committee, which is the body that has constitutional powers to decide on such matters. It would have been democratically absurd and constitutionally illegitimate to impose, against the will of the vast majority of Party members and of the various bodies with competence to decide on such issues, the prevalence of a certain number of signatures on petitions, an instrument which, besides being unacceptable from the Party’s point of view, is clearly inappropriate as a means of expressing and debating Party members’ points of view.

In fact, the various appeals made by the PCP Leadership for a reconsideration of attitudes and the effort to bring clearly divergent opinions within the Party’s space for debate, which in itself reflects the concern with giving priority to a political debate during this process, met a response that gradually escalated the confrontation. Instead of responding to the appeal for, despite differences of opinion, a contribution towards strengthening inner-Party democracy and forging the Party’s guidelines, as was done by tens of thousand of Party members, those Party members preferred to be openly hostile towards the National Conference, considering it a «desperate act» of a «putschist nature», to belittle its work and to declare, not merely that they did not recognize its conclusions, but that they intended to continue confronting the Party’s organisational principles and its guidelines. Some Party members even reiterated and insisted, in the days following the Conference, in their public attacks on the Party Conference and Leadership.

The tone and seriousness of these attitudes and behaviour escalated when the Executive Bodies decided to audition them, in accordance with Article 60 of the Party Constitution, to the unimaginable extent of comparing the note convening them for an audition (a note that was drafted at their request) with the «notifications of indictment» of the fascist regime.

It should be noted that for months, these Party members proclaimed the presumed imminence of sanctions, as a means to strike out against the Leadership in the eyes of the public and of the Party, and as a means to find a new factor to rally and involve other Party members with their theses and illegitimate manoeuvres. Imagined and non-existent sanctions were a permanent motto in the media campaign, with Party members being «expelled» in the Press every other week.

In short, it cannot be truthfully said that the Party Leadership did not act throughout this entire turbulent process, with full serenity, seriousness, self-restraint and common sense, in order to defend, as is its elementary duty, the Party’s unity and avoid resorting to the disciplinary measures which are detailed in the Party Constitution as a measure of last resort.

8. Disciplinary measures are not, and have never been for the PCP, an administrative act, but rather – in their essence and in the way they are viewed – a decision of political content and significance. This is the content and significance of the decisions that have now been taken. Aware of the political exploitation which will be made of these decisions against the Party, the Secretariat of the PCP’s Central Committee is certain that Party members will know how to view them and understand them as essential to preserve the Party’s unity and cohesion, conditions which are indispensable for its political initiative and irreplaceable role in defence of the Portuguese workers and people.

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