Bento António Gonçalves

(Fiães do Rio, Montalegre, 02-03-1902 – Tarrafal, Santiago Island, Cape Verde, 11-09-1942)

Bento António Gonçalves was born in Fiães do Rio, municipality of Montalegre. He was a young man when he went to Lisbon, and began working, in 1915, as a wood-turner, and afterwards, as a lathe operator, entering the Alfeite Arsenal in 1919. It was in the exercise of this profession that, between 1922 and 1926, he performed his compulsory military service in the General Workshops of the Railway of Luanda, where he collaborated with the trade union movement. Back in Lisbon, he played a prominent role in the reorganisation of the Union of Workers of the Naval Arsenal. In 1928, he became a formal militant of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) and, in April 1929, he was elected Secretary-General, leading the process of reorganisation of the party. He strengthened and launched organisations such as the Red Assistance, the Federation of Portuguese Communist Youth (FJCP), the Academic Defence Groups, the League Against War and Fascism, the Inter-Union Commission and the Revolutionary Organisation of the Navy (ORA). Bento Gonçalves also sought to instil a Leninist path and counter “anarchist” and “republican opposition” tendencies in the PCP, while strengthening the combination of legal and illegal forms of struggle, the action of the PCP in National Unions and the role of propaganda and indoctrination in O Avante!, which had started being published in 1931.

Arrested for the first time on 29 September 1930, in the Arsenal, he was sent to the Fort of São Julião da Barra, near Lisbon, on October 8, and then, to the Pico Island, in the Azores, where he stayed under a fixed residence regime. From the Azorean island, he was transferred to the islands of Sal and Fogo, in Cape Verde, until he was released by the amnesty of 1932. Months later, he went underground, exercising political activity in various parts of the country and playing a decisive role in the January 18 uprising in Marinha Grande. On 11 November 1935, a few months after attending the 7th Congress of the Communist International (CI) in Moscow, he was arrested in Lisbon and placed in the Prison of Aljube, which momentarily compromised the implementation of the CI’s guidelines. On 8 January 1936, he was transferred to the Fortress of Angra do Heroísmo, in the Azores. On 3 August 1936, Bento António Gonçalves was sentenced in the Military Court to six years of exile, a pecuniary fine, and the loss of political rights for ten years. He was transferred on 23 October 1936 to the Concentration Camp of Tarrafal, in Cape Verde, where he remained until his death in 1942, due to “blackwater fever”. In Tarrafal, he wrote in paper cement bags about the history of the PCP and the labour movement, Palavras Necessárias and Duas Palavras. With the death of the communist leader Bento Gonçalves, two years after the death of the anarchist leader Mário Castelhano, the leaders of the two main political groups to which the prisoners of Tarrafal were connected, were thus beheaded.

Other testimonials