Communist Party of Spain

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Communist Party of Spain
Partido Comunista de España
General Secretary Vacant (Provisional Committee)
Honorary President Dolores Ibárruri
(eternal title)[1]
Founder Jules Humbert-Droz
Founded 14 November 1921; 96 years ago (1921-11-14)
Merger of Spanish Communist Party
Spanish Communist Workers' Party
Headquarters C/Olimpo, 35
28043 Madrid
Newspaper Mundo Obrero
Nuestra Bandera
Youth wing Communist Youth Union of Spain (UJCE)
Membership (2017) 10,500[2]
Ideology Communism
National affiliation Popular Front (1936–39)
United Left (1986–present)
European affiliation Party of the European Left
International affiliation International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties
International Communist Seminar
European Parliament group European United Left–Nordic Green Left
Colours      Red
Congress of Deputies
5 / 350
Inside Unidos Podemos
1 / 266
Inside En Marea
European Parliament
2 / 54
Inside Plural Left

The Communist Party of Spain (Spanish: Partido Comunista de España; PCE) is a historically Marxist-Leninist party that, since 1986, is part of the United Left coalition.

The PCE was founded by 1921, after a split in the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (Spanish: Partido Socialista Obrero Español; PSOE). The PCE was founded by those who opposed the social democratic wing of the PSOE, because it did not support the PSOE's integration in the Communist International founded by Vladimir Lenin two years prior. The PCE was a merger of the Spanish Communist Party (Spanish: Partido Comunista Español and the Spanish Communist Workers' Party (Spanish: Partido Comunista Obrero Español). The PCE was first legalized after the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic in April 1931. The republic was the first democratic regime in the history of Spain. The PCE gained a lot of support in the months before the Spanish coup of July 1936, which marked the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, and it was a major force during the war as well. The Republicans lost and Franco established a military dictatorship, under which the PCE was one of the most heavily repressed parties, with specific laws banning communist parties,[3] among others.

Under the dictatorship, the PCE was the main opposition to the Francoist dictatorship. At the time, the Communist Party of Spain defended the restoration of a democratic republic, attracting many left-leaning Spaniards who were not necessarily communsits themselves. In the early years of the dictatorship, many PCE members joined the Spanish Maquis, a group of guerillas whose fought against the regime. Years later, the Maquis' power declined, and the PCE abandoned the military strategy. Instead, it chose to interfere in the only legal syndicate (which was part of the Francoist apparatus), the Vertical Syndicate. A lot of workers clandestinely joined the PCE, who were not necessarily communists themselves, but saw the PCE as the only party who could restore democracy in Spain.

Franco died on 20 November 1975, and two days later, Juan Carlos I was coronated. Juan Carlos I would lead the Spanish transition to democracy, a time when the PCE became also extremely relevant, due to Franco's anti-communist legacy. Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez legalized the PCE on 9 April 1977, a decision which was particularly controversial, but ended peacefully. The PCE largely contributed to the restoration of democracy in Spain during the lead of Secretary-General Santiago Carrillo.[4]

Since 1986, it is part of the United Left coalition. In its statutes, the PCE defines its goals as "democratically participate in a revolutionary transformation of society and its political structures, overcoming the capitalist system and constructing socialism in the Spanish State, as a contribution to the transition to socialism worldwide, with our goals set in the realization of the emancipating ideal of communism".[5] It defines itself as revolutionary, internationalist, solidary, republican, feminist, and secularist,[5] specifically, of the laïcité variety.

The youth organization of PCE is the Communist Youth Union of Spain. PCE publishes Mundo Obrero (Workers World) monthly.


Establishment and pre-republican era[edit]

The PCE was the result of a merger between two organizations: the original Spanish Communist Party (Partido Comunista Español or PCE) and the Spanish Communist Workers' Party (Partido Comunista Obrero Español or PCOE). The former was created in April 1920 from portions of the Socialists' youth organization (Federación de Juventudes Socialistas or FJS) while the latter had been formed from a union of dissident Socialists (terceristas) and members of the General Union of Workers (Unión General de Trabajadores or UGT) who regarded the original PCE as not properly representative of the working class.[6]

The two parties joined in the new Partido Comunista de España on 14 November 1921. The unified PCE became a member of the Third International and held its first congress in Sevilla in March 1922. In May, Jules Humbert-Droz, the top Comintern official in Western Europe, arrived in Spain to supervise the still fractious party and would continue to do so until the establishment of the republic.[6]

By the end of 1922, the party had approximately 5,000 members.[7] The PCE's left-wing engaged in political violence, especially in Bilbao, largely directed against other leftists. A party leader's bodyguard shot and killed a Socialist in November 1922 and organized party militants attempted a general strike in August 1923 that ended in a shootout at the barricaded party headquarters, resulting in twenty communists dead or injured and another seventy arrested.[7]

With the advent of the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera in September 1923, political parties, including the PCE, were repressed and rendered largely powerless though not dissolved. The party continued to publish its weekly newspaper La Antorcha until 1927. In November 1925, PCE leaders joined with Comintern officials and leaders of the Catalan-separatist Estat Català in endorsing a revolutionary program calling for the following:

  • Abolition of Primo de Rivera's dictatorship and of the monarchy,
  • Creation of a república federativa popular (federal popular republic),
  • Recognition of independence for Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Morocco,
  • Total freedom of association,
  • Expropriation of large estates and distribution of land to peasants,
  • Organization of workers' councils in industry,
  • Formation of a central committee for revolution consisting of representatives from several parties as well as a military committee, and
  • A planned insurrection in Madrid.[8]

However, Moscow urged a cautious approach, and the CNT and Basque nationalists were reluctant to cooperate with communists, so the plans were never carried out.[9] The PCE continued to suffer from repression and dissension. The party's second secretary general, José Bullejos, purged the party of politically suspect members, and was himself arrested in 1928. In 1930, the arguments over doctrine led the Catalan-Balearic Communist Federation (FCCB) to break from the party and associate with the International Right Opposition. Amid this infighting, Comintern official Dmitry Manuilsky reportedly stated that, while Spain had "an excellent proletariat", it had only "a few little groups, but not a communist party".[10]

Thus, the PCE was in a very debilitated state when the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed in 1931. On 3 December 1933 the first PCE parliamentarian, Cayetano Bolívar Escribano, was elected. Bolívar was jailed at the time of elections and left imprisonment to occupy his post in the parliament.

Popular Front and Civil War[edit]

Communist Party of Spain

Spanish Civil War
Popular Front

PCE federations
Mundo Obrero - CC.OO.
United Left
European Left

Dolores Ibárruri
Enrique Líster
Santiago Carrillo
Julio Anguita
Francisco Frutos

Politics of Spain
Political parties in Spain
Elections in Spain

World Communist Movement

PCE was a small party during the initial years of the Republic, until it began to grow due to the victory of the Popular Front (of which the Communists had been a constituent part) in February 1936 and the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in July of that year. The PCE, directed by José Díaz and Dolores Ibárruri (known popularly as La Pasionaria), worked consistently for the victory of the Republican forces and the Popular Front government, but was wary of the social revolution that was being waged by Spanish workers. The PCE leadership judged that while progressive laws could be passed, an attempt at a full-scale socialist revolution would needlessly divide the forces of the Republic. It would cause massive conflict behind republican lines, thus diverting military forces from the battle against Franco and driving many democratic republicans who were prepared to fight against the rebels into the arms of the rebels.

Being a well-knit and highly disciplined organization, the PCE could in spite of its numerical weakness play an important part in the war. In the first five months of the war, PCE grew from 30,000 members to 100,000. It also founded a Spanish branch of the International Red Aid, which assisted the Republican cause considerably.

Civil War poster

In 1936, due to the special political situation in Catalonia, Partit Comunista de Catalunya (the Catalan branch of PCE) was separated from the party to fuse with other socialists to form Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya. Since then the PCE does not have an organization in Catalonia, but relies on a regional referent party. This set-up has been imitated by many of the communist splinter groups in Spain.

Resistance and reorientation[edit]

After the Republican defeat in April 1939, the PCE was persecuted by the Nationales of caudillo Francisco Franco (1939–1975), although maintained the best organization among the opposition parties inside Spain. During the initial years of the Francoist State, PCE organized guerrilla struggles in some parts of the country.

From the signing of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to the German assault on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Spanish communists pursued neutralist policies with regards to Germany's aggression against Poland and France, regarding the war as imperialist and unjust. Much like the identical positions of other Moscow-directed Stalinist parties, this position was changed immediately after Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

A large part of the party membership was forced into exile. Some PCE members went to the Soviet Union and fought as volunteers for the Red Army during the Second World War, such as General Enrique Líster. A large section of PCE members were based in France, were a major party organization was set up. During the later half of the Franco years, PCE changed its strategy and started organizing Workers' Commissions (CC.OO.) within the official trade union apparatus. CC.OO. and PCE gained strength and became the backbone of the opposition forces in the country.

Dolores Ibárruri, "La Pasionaria", a dedicated follower of consequent Comintern policies, replaced Jose Diaz as General Secretary in 1942, and held the position until 1960. Santiago Carrillo was General Secretary from 1960 to 1982. In 1963, after the Communist Party of Spain abandoned the armed struggle, hard-line Communists, led by Julio Álvarez del Vayo, founded the Spanish National Liberation Front (FELN), a small splinter group.[11]

Carrillo put the party on a eurocommunist course, distancing it from its Leninist origins. Carrillo accepted concessions to the "bourgeoisie", accepting the restoration of a liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy. This was regarded by many Party members as treason, for these concessions were made to classes the Party's doctrine called "exploiters". The Party was legalized after the January 1977 Atocha Massacre, on 9 April 1977, as one of the last steps in the Spanish transition to democracy. Only weeks after the legalization, PCE had over 200,000 card-holding members.[citation needed]

Transition to democracy[edit]

But the concessions made by Carrillo (labelled "revisionist" by his orthodox communist opponents) and the social democratization of the party under his leadership provoked dissent amongst party ranks. Several party members left the party. Enrique Líster broke away in 1973 and formed the Partido Comunista Obrero Español. Other more radical left-wing groups that broke away were Partido Comunista de los Trabajadores (formed by the Left Opposition of PCE in 1977) and PCE (VIII-IX Congresos) (formed in 1971).

In the first elections after the transition in 1977, PCE obtained 10% of the votes, and received a similar result in 1979. In 1982, PCE suffered an electoral defeat. The electoral defeat and broad dissent amongst the party membership against Carrillo's social democratic path led to the removal of Carrillo from the party leadership. In 1985, Carrillo was expelled from the party.

In 1986, during anti-NATO protests, the PCE and other left-wing groups formed Izquierda Unida (IU). At the moment, the PCE has about 30,000 members. From 1982 to 1988, the General Secretary was Gerardo Iglesias. Between 1988 and 1998, its General Secretary was Julio Anguita, from 1998 until 2009, the post was held by Francisco Frutos, a member of the Cortes. Since 2009, the general secretary is José Luis Centella.

Notably, PSUC, the Catalan referent of PCE, did not reverse its eurocommunist course as PCE had done in 1982. Gradually, PSUC and PCE grew apart. Finally, PSUC decided to dissolve itself into Iniciativa per Catalunya, and cease to function as a communist party. This provoked a 45% minority to break-away and form PSUC viu (Living PSUC). Since 1998, PSUC viu (United and Alternative Left) is the referent of PCE in Catalonia.

List of Secretaries-General of the Communist Party of Spain[edit]

Year Name Time in office
1921 Antonio García Quejido 1921–1923
1923 César Rodríguez González 1923–1925
1925 José Bullejos 1925–1932
1932 José Díaz 1932–1942
1942 Dolores Ibárruri 1942–1960
1960 Santiago Carrillo 1960–1982
1982 Gerardo Iglesias 1982–1988
1988 Julio Anguita 1988–1998
1998 Francisco Frutos 1998–2009
2009 José Luis Centella 2009–2017
2017 Vacant (Provisional Committee)

Federations of the PCE[edit]

The PCE consists of 15 federations:

PSUC viu participates in PCE congresses, etc. as a PCE federation.

Electoral performance[edit]

Second Spanish Republic[edit]

Election Popular vote Seats Leader Outcome
Votes  % #
1931 0.8 #21
0 / 470
1933 1.9 #14
1 / 472
José Díaz Ramos PRRPA–GRI–PRLD–PRG coalition
1936 2.5 #13
17 / 473
IRUR coalition

Cortes Generales[edit]

Election Popular vote Seats Leader Outcome
Votes  % # Congress Senate
1977 1,709,890 9.3 #3
20 / 350
5 / 207
Santiago Carrillo UCD minority
1979 1,938,487 10.8 #3
23 / 350
1 / 208
UCD minority
1982 865,272 4.1 #4
4 / 350
0 / 208
PSOE majority

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "El Referente". 
  2. ^ El PCE cumple hoy 40 años en la legalidad. Expansión, 09/04/2017.
  3. ^ Articles 1 and 2 (1), Ley de 1 de marzo de 1940, sobre represión de la masonería y del comunismo, 1 March 1940 (in Spanish). Retrieved on 16 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Santiago Carrillo, el alma de la transición española" (in Spanish). ABC. 18 September 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Estatutos del Partido Comunista de España (PDF) (in Spanish), Communist Party of Spain, 30 January 2014, p. 1, retrieved 16 January 2018 
  6. ^ a b S.G. Payne,The Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union, and Communism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004; pg. 12.
  7. ^ a b Payne,The Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union, and Communism, pg. 15.
  8. ^ Payne,The Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union, and Communism, pp. 18–19.
  9. ^ Payne,The Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union, and Communism, pg. 19.
  10. ^ Payne,The Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union, and Communism, pp. 20–21.
  11. ^ Biografias y Vidas – Julio Álvarez del Vayo Archived 2012-02-13 at the Wayback Machine.

Further reading[edit]

  • Tim Rees, "The Highpoint of Comintern Influence? The Communist Party and the Civil War in Spain," in Tim Rees and Andrew Thorpe (eds.), International Communism and the Communist International, 1919–43. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998.

External links[edit]