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Communist Party of Spain

The Communist Party of Spain (Partido Comunista de Espana-- PCE) had its beginnings in Spain during the revolutionary upsurge that followed World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. The Spanish communists did not become so strong a force as their counterparts in other European countries, however, largely because of the existence in Spain of strong socialist and anarchist movements that already occupied the left end of the political spectrum. PCE membership, never very large in the party's early years of activity, declined dramatically under the repression carried out by the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera in the 1920s (see The African War and the Authoritarian Regime of Miguel Primo de Rivera , ch. 1). Communist influence on the left increased when the PCE ceased attacking the Socialists and other leftist organizations and shifted toward a popular front strategy in 1934.

During the Civil War, the leftist forces were again divided. The communists were intent on finishing the war against the fascist forces before beginning their social and political revolution, whereas other leftist organizations were not willing to postpone the restructuring of Spanish society. The communists were brutal in their suppression of competing leftist organizations, which led to the party's ostracism by the other anti-Franco forces in the post-Civil War period.

In the mid-1950s, the PCE began vigorous efforts to break out of its isolation and adapted policies designed to bring together a broad coalition of parties, under PCE leadership, to oppose the Franco dictatorship. Ironically, it was the Franco regime itself, by focusing its attacks on the PCE, that enabled the party to become a rallying point for dissident students and workers. The party built a political base around the trade union movement known as the CCOO, and by the end of the Franco era the PCE, under the leadership of Santiago Carrillo, was the most effective political organization in Spain.

The PCE failed to take the initiative as this authoritarian regime drew to a close, however, and expectations of a hegemonic role for the PCE on the Spanish left were not realized. Although PCE membership multiplied following the party's legalization in 1977 (see Transition to Democracy , ch. 1), the PCE received only 9 percent of the popular vote in the elections held that year; dominance on the left went to the rival PSOE. After the PCE's share of the vote fell to 3.8 percent in the 1982 elections, internal tensions within the party reached crisis proportions, and Carrillo's leadership began to be questioned.

As had been the case for the PSOE, the PCE found that the burden of dogmatic Marxism reduced its appeal for the electorate. Carrillo had succeeded in eliminating the word "Leninism" from the PCE statutes at a party congress in 1978, over substantial opposition. He continued to be criticized by the pro-Soviet militants within the party, who urged him to take a more revolutionary approach. At the same time, a more Europeanoriented group, known as the renovators, agitated for modernization and for more internal debate within the party.

In addition to ideologically based dissension, there was also general dissatisfaction with Carrillo's increasingly inflexible leadership. His repeated purges of those members who opposed him further decimated and demoralized the party. Following the PCE's decisive defeat in the October 1982 elections, Carrillo resigned as secretary general of the party; he was replaced by Gerardo Iglesias.

In succeeding months, splinter groups broke away from the PCE, further depleting its support to form pro-Soviet or MarxistLeninist parties. Among these were the pro-Soviet Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain (Partido Comunista de los Pueblos de Espana--PCPE) and the Communist Party of Spain--Marxist-Leninist (Partido Comunista de Espana--Marxista-Leninista--PCEml). Within the PCE, Carrillo strongly opposed Iglesias's policies. He was particularly critical of the latter's proposal to form a coalition of all progressive forces that were to the left of the PSOE. This conflict led to Carrillo's expulsion from the central committee of the party, in April 1985. He subsequently organized and led the Committee for Communist Unity (Mesa para Unidad de los Comunistas--MUC), which in December 1986 formed a new proSoviet party named the Spanish Workers' Party-Communist Unity (Partido de los Trabajadores de Espana-Unidad Comunista--PTE-UC). By the end of 1987, there were indications of efforts on the part of the PCE, PCPE, and the PTE-UC to unify the three communist parties in time for the next general elections. The PCE and the PCPE, together with several other small leftist parties, formed an electoral coalition, the IU, to contest the national elections in 1986 as well as the regional and municipal elections in 1987.

The PCE convened its Twelfth Party Congress in February 1988 amid mounting agitation for a major revitalization of the party, which was plagued by financial problems and by a lack of unity. Although Iglesias had initiated the policy of a united left and had ended the decimating party purges, critics felt that stronger measures as well as more effective leadership were necessary to mobilize the left and to improve the PCE's showing at the polls. At the party congress, Julio Anguita was chosen to succeed Iglesias. Party members reaffirmed their commitment to workers' interests, and they adopted policies aimed at attracting environmentalists and pacifists to their ranks.

Data as of December 1988

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