Álvaro Cunhal 2001

The Six Fundamental Features of a Communist Party

Speech to the International Meeting “Vigencia y actualization del Marxismo,” organized by the Rodney Arismendi Foundation, in Montevideo, September 13-15 2001, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of its creation. The meeting approached three major issues: “Una concepción y un método para enfrentar los desafíos del nuevo milenio”; “Democracia, democracia avanzada y socialismo”; “Por la unidad de la izquierda a la conquista del gobierno.
Translated: from the Portugese by Isabel O'Sullivan;
Transcribed: by Filip Diniz;


The 20th century is forever marked by the Russian revolution of 1917, by the political power of the proletariat and by the lasting building, first time in history, of a society with no exploiters nor exploited.

Insurrections, rebellions and revolts had taken place before. Of slaves, of poor peasants, of exploited and oppressed classes. But in none of those cases had these struggles the purpose of (or even the admission of the possibility) of building a new liberating society.

The falsity of official historiography, the huge slanderous anti-communist campaigns and the of its own past some, make it necessary to communists to recall what signified the 1917 Russian revolution and the building of the Soviet Union. To remember and justify the statement that it was the main historical event of the 20th century and one of the most outstanding events in the history of humanity.

Recall also that in the Paris Commune 1871, a near precedent of the Russian revolution, the proletariat took over power and, proving mass heroism, began building a new society.

Recall that in Paris, the capital of France, for 102 days, the red banner of the working class floated at the Town Hall. Recall the reactionary armies’ assault, the outrageous repression, the massacre of 30 000 Paris citizens, a total of 100 000 assassinations, executions, condemnations to forced labor.

But always underline that, although the Paris Commune was defeated, the new course of human history that it had initiated was not, since it was the announcing dawn of the Russian revolution of 1917 that, in fact, initiated a new path unto a new social system, unprecedented in history. Many forget that in the course of over half a century this system won its way as an alternative to the capitalist system. These are events that ought to remain forever as references and values of humanity, in the struggle for its own liberation.

The building of a new State, expressed by the motto “all power to the soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers,” signified the installing of popular power and a basial element of the State, and of a democracy “a thousand times more democratic than the most democratic of bourgeois democracies.”

At the economic level, from working-class control, the land, factories, mines, rail transports, banks passed on to the possession of all the people’s State, representing a fulgurant development.

Side by side with the state’s enterprises, a deep change in agriculture took place, with the agricultural collectivization, in which the sovkozes (state units) and the Kolkosian mass movement (cooperatives) played a decisive role.

At social level, the rights to housing, to medical assistance and education were ensured. Equal rights to women were in fact, recognized, the cultural institutions were liberated from the domination of the great lords.

The Soviet Union achieved great discoveries and advances in science and the new and revolutionary technologies, which allowed, along with economic and social development, to reach a military potential that, for decades, contained the aggressive policy of capitalism. The fact that it was a soviet citizen the first human being to liberate himself from earth gravidity and fly throughout outer space proves this outstanding success.

One ought never to forget the Soviet Union’s contribution for the development of workers and peoples struggles worldwide, unto new socialist revolutions, the achievement of workers fundamental rights within capitalist countries, the development of the liberating national movement and – at the price of 20 million lives (caused by the armies, concentration camps, huge massacres of defenseless populations) – to defeat Hitlerian Germany in the World War II, handing over a decisive contribution to save the world from the fascist barbarism.

However, the objective and valorized presentation of these realities is not enough. It is indispensable at the same time to proceed to a critical and self-critical analysis of registered aspects, facts and negative phenomena.

It is an elementary truth that collapse of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries resulted from a number of external and internal circumstances. Which were not all of them of equal influence.

Factors of internal order had relevant influence. The fact is that, during the building of the new society, a drift from communism ideals and principles took place, as well as a progressive degrading of the state and the party’s policy, in short, the building of a “model” that, along with Gorbachov’s treason, led to defeat and collapse.

The “model” that came to be created turned into a strongly centralized and bureaucratical power, into an administrative conception of political decisions, into intolerance to the diversity of opinions and before critics towards power, in the use and abuse of repressive methods, in theory crystallization and dogmatization.

The political power of working-class and working masses was jeopardized. The new democracy was jeopardized. The economic development which, standing on the militancy and the will of the people, achieved a vertiginous rhythm in the first decades of soviet power, became jeopardized. The dialectic, creative character of the revolutionary theory, that has necessarily to answer to changes in reality and practical experiences, was jeopardized.

The examination both of the historical achievements and of these pernicious incidents, as well as the experiences of the international communist movement, places unto the communist parties the need to redefine the socialist society, its objective and one of the basic elements of its identity.

Although restrained by the socialist field and by the world revolutionary process until the last decades of the 20th century, capitalism registered a development that led him to achieve, at the end of the century, world supremacy.

Two factors determined this situation.

On one hand, the disappearance of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, the weakening of the international communist and the national liberation movements, the regression of revolutionary processes.

On the other hand, the development of capitalism in the spheres of production, of science, of scientific research, of revolutionary technologies and of military force.

Resulted from this, by the end of the 20th century, a change of force correlation that allowed imperialism to launch a gigantic offensive with the purpose of achieving the absolute domination worldwide.

For over three quarters of the 20th century, the general evolution trend was the advance of socialism and of the peoples’ liberating struggle.

This trend’s inversion occurs in the century’s last decades. The change in force correlation rendered possible to capitalism to launch a “global” offensive.


The imperialist offensive now in progress holds, as a declared and announced objective, the imposition of capitalism absolute domination all over the world, as a sole, universal and final system.

And that is the fundamental meaning of the theory of the so-called “globalization.”

It signifies the greatest of dangers and the most sinister threat that humanity has faced in its whole history.

In reality certain aspects and elements of capitalism’s objective development towards “globalization” were already in progress. Such as the productive processes’ internationalization of economic and financial relations, of information and the media, of the creation of economic integration zones.

It is also certain that imperialism, in its struggle for “the parting of the world,” had as weapons military interventions, aggressions and wars.

However, the imperialist “global” offensive is of a different nature. Having the USA as a fundamental hegemony force, the current offensive develops in all fronts.

The instruments of the economic offensive are the creation of gigantic groups of transnational companies, of several bodies holding added “legal” imposing powers of rules and policies (IMF, TWO, WB), the appropriation of resources and strategic sectors in weaker countries, the credit cuts, the economic policies decided by supranational bodies to member states of unions with federative nature, the financial stranglehold measures and economic blockades with the purpose of surrendering countries that oppose the offensive.

Economic integration zones become political integration zones, holding supra-national bodies, supranational ministers, an effective submission of the poorer and less developed unto the richer and more powerful.

This process sharpens many of capitalism’s contradictions. It has as an element the enlargement, even within developed capitalist countries, of social areas living in extreme poverty and, in underdeveloped countries, of whole peoples with millions of inhabitants dying with starvation.

At the same time, it sharpens competition and generates the possibility of serious conflicts, between the huge economic-political poles and between the richest and most powerful countries.

Meanwhile (and that is a new distinctive character), they all integrate the “global” offensive.

Among the great projects and plans, the Investment Multilateral Agreement (IMA) is to be underlined. According to that project, the great economic and financial powers associated could, along with the necessary military support, impose, country by country, the exploitation, the taking of possession of the economy vital sectors, the destiny of the invested and created capitals, together the obligation of puppet governments to crush eventual struggles and revolts of their respective peoples.

The IMA is like a project of imperialist constitutional charter in its economic and “global” political offensive.

It is known that the existence of that project, elaborated under the cover of USA, Great-Britain, France and Germany, provoked such a vast reaction and indignation that it was withdrawn from immediate consideration. But the fact is it was kept for ulterior consideration.

Side by side and sometimes as a direct instrument of the economic offensive (closely linked to the economic and diplomatic activity), the military offensive has as instruments a dominant superiority in weaponry, namely from the United States, and NATO as a supranational autonomous force, also dominated and commanded, in effect, by the United States.

The military offensive is expressed by ultimatums, bombings, armed interventions, the arming and supporting of rebel forces against democratic governments, interventions in order to impose tyrant and puppet governments, aggressions and wars against countries that courageously oppose the United States and other imperialist countries, terrorist organizations attempts and state terrorism military actions.

Adding the hideous institutionalization of an international political court commanded by imperialism in order to judge and condemn unto life imprisonment outstanding defenders of their own peoples and countries.

And yet the gigantic atmosphere, rivers and oceans pollution, carried out by more developed countries, along with the natural resources plunder of under-developed countries, that have as consequence the ecologic balance destruction throughout vast regions in the globe.

All these aspects of the offensive achieve a level never seen before, and are part of the world integration process of imperialism forces concerning their “global” offensive.

Imperialism, as a perspective, proclaims the offensive as non-stop and irreversible and announces, definitely, the stability and the system’s final stabilization. At the ideological level it announces the universalization of thought, the end of ideologies and the “unique thinking.”

But the offensive is not unstoppable nor irreversible. And with those ideas, spread by propaganda, imperialism seeks after all to elude itself. In other words: its declared objective, of insane ambition, is the current capitalism utopia.

Utopia because, on one hand capitalism, by its own nature, is consumed by contradictions and problems that it cannot solve. And because, on the other, there exist forces that oppose, that resist and, by reinforcing themselves, can impede imperialism to achieve such an objective.

These forces are:

  1. The countries that, with communists in power, insist in the purpose of building a socialist society, although through very differentiated paths.
  2. The working-class movement, namely the trade-union movement.
  3. The communist and other revolutionary parties, struggling with confidence and courage.
  4. The potential resistance of capitalist countries currently dominated and exploited by imperialism, with an effective loss of their national independence.
  5. New national-liberating movements.
  6. Environment defense movements, against the power and decisions of richer countries and directly against “globalization.”

These are the fundamental forces to impede imperialism domain worldwide. But having this conscience is not enough. A correspondent intervention is indispensable. It is necessary to reinforce them and struggle in order that they coincide and converge.

Such is the only path to stop, difficult, impede the advance of imperialism offensive and create conditions to defeat it in the end and make possible a turnaround in the international situation.

One ought to recall that imperialism does not limit itself to frontal attack in its different fronts. It actively seeks to divide the forces that resist it, mine them from the core, lead them to give up struggle unto self- destruction and suicide.

In some cases, they have achieved this goal. But in many others, one assists to their reinforcement, revitalization, growing influence and initiative.

The important is to divulge, underline, valorize the examples that confirm this appreciation.


The objective of building a socialist society does not in any way impede, but it otherwise implies that a communist party holds solutions and short and medium-term objectives proposing an alternative to the current situation.

But be aware. The situation analysis and the definition of a policy ought to start from capitalist basic realities, to which correspond fundamental concepts of the proletariat revolutionary theory:

These are realities and concepts. They were not discovered by Marx and Engels, but by previous economists and philosophers. What is new about Marxism is the analysis of real economic and political situations having those concepts as a basis.

In pre-revolutionary situations or other situations in which there existed a temporary balance between class forces the political power, strongly conditioned, would circumstantially not apply a policy favoring the capital. It may even have carried out progressive measures of anti-capitalist nature. These are, however, exceptional and short-term situations.

This is not the case of bourgeois democracy capitalist countries. In these, political power misrepresents the four aspects of democracy.

The economic – the possession of economy’s basic sectors by the great capital and the submission of political power to economic power.

The social – by workers and popular masses exploitation and poverty and wealth concentration in the hands of a limited number of huge fortunes.

The cultural – through the great capital ideology propaganda, by the working-class children’s discriminatory education system, by the propaganda of obscurantist ideas, by the attempts unto artistic creativity, by the multiplication of religious sects.

The political – by power abuse and absolutization, and liquidation of bodies and mechanisms of democratic account of the exercise of power, by the unconstitutional modification of legality and of the competences of sovereignty bodies when the laws in force reveal insufficient for the absolute exercise of the power of great capital.

And all this degradation develops with the pretext of a necessary “stability” and a “state of law.”

The degradation of political democracy – bringing with it the spectacular and theatrical parliamentary quibble conflicts, career pursuit, impunity and corruption – provokes discredit of policy and politicians.

Meanwhile, politics is a necessary activity and communists and other true democrats are different and better in their political practice, demarking themselves from the so-called and discredited “political class.”

The powerful media (newspapers, magazines, radios, televisions, audiovisuals), property and instrument of the great monopolist groups, do not constitute a new independent power, as some make believe, but an instrument of great capital in its dominant liaison with governments.

The struggle for democracy being one of the central objectives of a communist party’s action, it is indispensable to define which are that democracy’s fundamental elements.

One ought to demand from a government simultaneity and complementarity of its fundamental aspects. It is not enough to a government declare to be democratic. It is necessary that it really is so.

It is necessary also to truly define, in each situation, the democracy we struggle for. In a given situation, in a given moment, it can occur, as an example, that the struggle for democracy gives great importance to the reinforcement of the direct and participative democracy elements along with representative democracy.

Elections are one of the basic elements of a democratic regime, but they only can be so considered if they respect equality and if power abuse, discriminations and exclusions are stopped. If these conditions are not achieved elections become a fraud, a serious attack on democracy and an instrument of power monopolization, sometimes in alternation, by the political forces at the service of capital.

An “advanced democracy,” for which some parties fight for, is defined as a democratic regime that undergoes progressive achievements of non-capitalist nature (nationalization of some economy sectors and liquidation of large landowners’ propriety).

This way or another, defined the objectives to the struggle for democracy at a given moment, communists cannot be, wish not to be and are not isolated.

The understanding of class struggle, an omnipresent reality in society as motor of historical evolution, does not contradict nor excludes the need of social and political alliances between the working class, other workers and their party with immediate concrete objectives, considering that the arrangement and correlation of political forces stands on the relation and correlation of classes and social strata. The correct definition of which these alliances demands, in the first place, the exact evaluation of the representativity of such classes and social strata or such and such parties and of the social base support on which they count.

No situations are all alike. It might happen that in such a country or countries there are similar economic, social and political situations. However, there always exist differences that demand different answers. There are no universal solutions nor “recipes.” The copy of solutions leads unto guidelines that do not correspond to the demands of concrete reality.

Great scientific discoveries and revolutionary technologies are provoking deep changes in the composition of working classes and the own social composition in the society of developed countries. In these situations, it becomes particularly complex to define social alliances – the base of political alliances.

Regarding this issue, there exist definitions which are very much unclear.

Within the political alliances framework, in numerous bourgeois democracy countries democratic parties, namely communist parties, have defined as their objective a so-called “left-wing” policy.

There are cases in which, regarding those parties’ guidelines, the designation “left-wing” excludes the support or partnership in a “right-wing” policy. In this case it holds a clear and positive meaning.

Meanwhile, in most countries, the “left-wing” expression in the contemporary political dictionary holds an imprecise meaning, with plenty of incognito, contradictory, objectively misleading. On defining “left wing” parties or sectors are frequently included anti-communist “far-left” parties, socialist and social-democrat parties that practice and defend a “right-wing” policy.

The same concerns “left-wing” governments or of the “left-wing.” In some cases, experience shows that the communist participation in governments of socialist and social-democrat parties, considered as “left-wing,” signifies co-partnership in carrying out “right-wing” policies.

That we define as an objective a democratic policy in its four aspects, that we struggle for it, but not proclaim a policy that includes the participation (or the objective to achieve it) in many current governments that, titled as “left-wing,” are instruments of the great capital, of transnational corporations, of the most rich and powerful countries, of the current imperialism “global” offensive which purposes to impose its domination worldwide.

It is also the case of the so-called “stability pacts” signed by reformist parties and trade-union organizations, which sacrifice workers fundamental to the intent to overcome the present capitalist crisis.

That is not the necessary path that workers, peoples and nations struggle demands nowadays.

The necessary path is for the communist parties (and other revolutionary parties) to sort it out in the concrete conditions in their own countries. With conviction, courage and their communist identity.


The framework of the existing revolutionary forces throughout the world has changed in the last decades of the 20th century.

The international communist movement and its parties suffered deep changes following the debacle of the USSR and other socialist countries and the capitalist success in the competition with socialism.

There were parties that renounced their past of struggle, their class nature, the objective of a socialist society and their revolutionary theory. In some cases, they became parties integrated in the system and ended up by disappearing.

This new situation in the international communist movement opened a void space society in which became particularly relevant other revolutionary parties which, in each country’s concrete conditions, identified themselves with the communist parties in important and sometimes fundamental aspects concerning their objectives and action.

So, when the international communist movement is mentioned nowadays, we cannot, as before, place a frontier between communist parties and any other revolutionary parties. The communist movement passed to a new composition and new limits.

These events do not signify that communist parties, with their own identity, are not needed in society. On the contrary. With the fundamental features of their identity, communist parties are necessary, indispensable and irreplaceable taking in to account that, as there is no “model” for a socialist society, there is no “model” for a communist party.

However, with differentiated concrete answers to concrete situations, six fundamental features on a communist party’s identity can be indicated, whatever the name the party chooses for himself.

1st – To be a party that is totally independent from the interests, ideology, pressures and threats of the forces of capital.

This regards the independence of the party and of the class, constitutive element of a communist party’s identity. It affirms itself in its own action, its own objectives, its ideology.

The rupture with these essential features is never, in no case, an act of independence but, on the contrary, a renunciation to it.

2nd – To be a working-class party, of workers in general, of the exploited and oppressed.

According to each country’s society social structure, the social composition of the party members and of its support may be very diversified. In any case, it is essential that the party must not be closed in itself, turned inwards, but instead turned outwards, to society, which means that most of all it is closely connected to the working class and masses.

By not considering this issue, the loss of the party’s class nature has driven unto a vertical fall of the force of some of them, and in certain cases to their self-destruction and disappearance.

The party’s class nature replacement by the conception of a “ party of citizens” signifies to hinder that there exist citizens that are exploiters and citizens that are exploited and lead the party unto a neutral position amid the class struggle – which, in practice, disarms the party and the exploited classes and changes the party into a appendicular instrument concerning the dominant exploiter classes policy.

3rd- To be a party holding an internal democratic life and a sole central leadership.

Internal democracy is particularly rich in virtues namely collective work, collective leadership, congresses, assemblies, debates involving the whole party on major issues, guidelines and political action, responsibility decentralization and election of the central leadership bodies and of all organizations.

These principles’ applicability ought to correspond to the political and historical situation in which the party acts.

In conditions of illegality and repression, democracy is limited by the imperative of defense. In a bourgeois democracy, the pointed-out virtues ought to know, and it is desirable that they know, a vaster and deeper application.

4th- To be a party that is both internationalist and a defender of his own country’s interests.

Contrarily of what was defended at a time amid the communist movement, there exists no contradiction between these two elements in the guidelines and action of communist parties.

Each party is solidary with other countries parties, workers and peoples. But it is a true defender of the interests and rights of its own people and country. The expression “patriotic and internationalist party” is of the greatest actuality at this ending of the 20th century. It can, in an internationalist attitude, include itself, as a value of the struggle within the country and, as a value for that same struggle within the country, the solidarity relation to workers and peoples from other countries.

5th – To be a party that defines, as its objective, the building of a society without exploited and explorers, a socialist society.

This objective is entirely for the present. But the positive and negative experiences in building socialism in a number of countries and the deep changes regarding the world situation, induce a critical analysis of the past and a redefinition of a socialist society as the objective of communist parties.

6th – To be a party holding a revolutionary theory, Marxism-Leninism, that not only allows to explain the world but indicates the way to change it.

Rejecting all the anticommunist slanderous campaigns, Marxism-Leninism is a live, antidogmatic, dialectic, creative theory, enriched by practice and by the answers it is called upon to give to new situations and phenomena. It dynamizes practice, enriches itself and develops creatively with the lessons of practice.

Marx in “Das Kapital” and Marx and Engels in the “ Communist Party Manifesto” analyzed and defined the fundamental elements and features of capitalism. Nevertheless, capitalism development suffered an important change in the second half of the 19th century. Competition led unto concentration and concentration led to monopoly.

We owe to Lenine, in his work “ Imperialism, the capitalism ulterior phase,” a definition of capitalism at the end of the 19th century.

These theory developments are of extraordinary value. And the same value has the research and the systemization of theoretical knowledge.

A famous Lenine article, of extraordinary rigor and clearness points out “the three sources and three constitutive parts of Marxism.”

In philosophy, the dialectic-materialism holds its application to society to historical materialism.

In political economy, the analysis and interpretation of capitalism and exploitation, whose “angular stone” is the surplus-value theory

In the theory of socialism, the definition of a new society with the abolition of exploitation of man by man.

In the course of the 20th century, and following the social transformations, new and numerous theoretical reflections took place amid the communist movement. However, disperse, contradictory reflections, making it difficult to distinguish what are theoretical developments and what is the revisionist withdrawal of fundamental principles.

From that the imperative nature of debates, without pre-made ideas nor absolutized truths, not seeking to reach considered definitive conclusions, but to deepen a common reflection.

It is to expected that the International Meeting, at the Rodney Arismendi Foundation, in September this year, will give a positive contribution to the achievement of this objective.