XII. Crises

Portugal - The Impossible Revolution? -- Phil Mailer


Between June and August 1975 it becomes increasingly difficult to speak of a government or indeed of an opposition. Real power was coming to lie more and more in the streets. With the departure of the an PPD from the Fourth Government the PCP and MDP were left in virtual control of the state. The 'Goncalvists', as the military wing of the PCP were called, dominated the Council of the Revolution, while the PCP and its sympathisers controlled most of the ministries. But their basis in the country was narrow and certainly showed no signs of broadening.

The PCP had spearheaded the response to March 11th and both the 'moderate' wing of the MFA and the PS had had to follow in their wake, accepting nationalisations as a price to be paid for their participation in office. Between March and June the PS (and the social-democratic wing of the MFA) were disorganised. They were to remain in a minority position, despite the support' for the PS which the April elections were to reveal.

The newlyformed Fifth Government was opposed from many sides. It is a gross misrepresentation to view all support for it as 'revolutionary' and opposition to it as reactionary' (as a certain PCP mythology is now suggesting). 'The Fifth Government was born dead', according to Arnaldo Matos (MRPP). But it also inherited all the dead governments before it. The same forces opposed the Fifth Government as had opposed the Third or Fourth. The only difference was the absence of the PCP and MDP from some of these oppositions. These self-styled parties of the workers' were now in power and, according to some, everything they did had to be defended. But there were other oppositions, too, which were now to take on a violent form.


The firebombings which were to spread throughout the North began in earnest in Fafe (near Porto) on June 11, when a grenade exploded in the PCP offices. Most of the terrorist actions which followed were clearly the work of the right. In Pdvoa de Varzim (near Porto) leaflets were handed out saying that the MDP had planned to kidnap a local priest. In Trofa, on June 16, CDS sympathisers organised a demonstration against the PCP.

The wide-based support which this 'opposition' received in the North and Centre of the country can only be explained by the strategy of the PCP in these regions. The PCP had shown itself no different from the traditional parties in its handling of the Casas do Povo and of the Juntas it had taken over. The faces behind the desks had changed, but the attitudes hadn't. Because of the 'cliquishness' of the PCP in these regions people were helped according to which party they belonged to, rather than according to their needs.

On July 1, the workers of Moleflex (mattresses) downed tools and marched from S. Joao da Madeira to the army barracks in Porto. Some 200 of the 2000 workers claimed that the PCP was manipulating the Administrative Council (which had been appointed by Vasco Goncalves) and that their CT was completely controlled by the Party. In Lourinha, in the centre of the country, most small farmers and workers had supported the social movements after April 25th. The local PCP criticised a local inn-keeper for renting his hall to the PPD for a meeting. The man was popular in the area, having hired his hall to most of the workers at one time or another for marriage feasts, etc., even charging less to the poorer workers. When the PCP called him a 'fascist' and a 'reactionary' the local small farmers and agricultural workers rallied en masse to support him. Their demonstration, like many such, was as much against the local PCP cell as in favour of the PPD (or CDS, etc.). During the demonstration fire-bombs were thrown. The only response by the PCP was to label the entire local population 'reactionary and uneducated'. This paternalism was rampant. In order to explain divisions within the class the left groups were reduced to talking of the backwardness of the proletariat This inflamed the 'backward proletariat' still further. While at a certain theoretical level groups like UDP and PRP-'BR discussed among themselves problems such as those of agricultural workers and tenant farmers, at the practical level their behaviour showed the worst form of cliquism.

The backlash continued non-stop throughout July and August. In Santa Comba dao, over the weekend of July 26, a crowd raided a local GNR barracks where an ex-PIDE was being held prisoner. In Braganca some 10,000 people turned up to hear the Bishop say Mass and began shouting 'Down with Otelo, Otelo to Mozambique'. In Agueda and Esmoriz the PCP headquarters were destroyed. On July 29 the MDP offices in these towns were burned to the ground to cries of 'Long live the CDS'. In Lourinha, where the Lisbon papers had been burned during an 'anti-communist' demonstration, some 300 small farmers and local businessmen marched to one of the nationalised banks (now controlled by the PCP) and called for the saneamento of three PCP members who worked there. They claimed that agricultural credit was being granted according to party colours, and that information concerning the political beliefs of customers was being fed to the bank by local PCP workers. When the PCP was accused by some 30 members of the 'Committee for the Extinction of the PIDE' of using PIDE files to blackmail people into supporting them, the PS called for an enquiry. That the PS (or others) would also have used them, given half a chance, is beside the point. The scandal helped discredit the Fifth Government even more.

By the end of August most of the groups (with the exception of the most orthodox maoist ones) had been attacked. They included Intersindical, PCP, MDP, FSP, MES, UDP, PRP-BR, FEC-ml, and various front organisations controlled by these groups. To understand this wave of fire -bombings in the North and Centre, one must look at the social and cultural peculiarities of these areas. it was not the first time that a Lisbon-based regime had been frontally attacked from the North. In the famous wars of the Patuleia (1846-48) riots had spread from Porto, directed against reforms introduced by the right-wing Cabralist regime. This regime, established through a bloodless coup, had been opposed by the main classes in society (aristocrats, artisans and peasants) and by a variety of political tendencies (monarchists, generals,clergy and left radicals). The revolt at that time (also known as the revolt of Maria da Fonte) was certainly popular, although its internal contradictions were just as sharp as were to be those of the opposition of 1975.

Before April 1974 PCP and MDP theoreticians and economists had only seriously attempted to analyse the situation in the South, where capitalist contradictions were more blatant. They drew up their plans for dismantling the great latifundios and monopolies through agrarian reform. The North, almost forgotten, was now staking its claims to be remembered, and with a vengeance.

The structure and problems of the North were quite different from those of the South, as a few figures can easily show (see Appendix 15B). In Evora 71% of the existing farms comprised less than 4 hectares. But together these numerous farms only covered a minute part of the land (6%). The rest was in the hands of the owners of large estates. At the other end of the spectrum, in the region of Viseu, there were very few large estates and some 92% of the land was covered by plots of less than 4 hectares. Similarly, all the major labour intensive factories in Portugal were in the South. Twenty one of 49 factories employing over 1000 workers were in Lisbon and Setubal.

Agrarian reform in the South presented few problems. The latifundianos fled the land (or were driven from it) and the agricultural workers merely walked in and occupied it. In Evora 90% of the population engaged in agriculture were wage earners. In Viana in the North, the figure was only 27%. The unevenness of industrial development was associated with a very uneven development of agriculture.

In the South there was a certain support for the state-capitalist policies of the PCP and MDP: they opened a door whereby the workers could occupy land and take over the machinery and houses on it. The latifundiarios (through the PIDE and the GNR) had kept a tight hold on their workers. The miserable wages paid had engendered a real solidarity and hatred for the great land-owners. Nationalisation of the banks and the centralisation of credit were the obvious PCP responses to pressures from below. Support for land occupations and acceptance of the 'cooperatives' was also necessary, at least in the first stages.

The North was a different matter. Most peasant families there rented their small farms from local land- owners who had a hold over them far more powerful than anything encountered in the South. The 'rent laws', which dated back to the early 40's, allowed the landowners to refuse renewal of leasing arrangements to any family, at a year's notice. This law was changed by the Fourth Government. Almost no landowner could now evict a tenant within 18 years of having signed a contract. The new rent law typical of the new legislation - was a compromise with the local landlords.' On the one hand it helped tenants while on the other it legitimised the whole concept of agricultural rent, confirming the landlords' 'right' to the land.

The northern peasants had provided whatever 'mass basis' the previous regime had enjoyed .The demonstrations in support of Salazar after the Second World War were however often farcical affairs: northern peasant farmers were shepherded into buses and brought to Lisbon (being paid 20 escudos for the day). PIDE agents arranged the lists of demonstrators, helped by the clergy in the churches.

Northern families often lived entirely off the land, eating vegetables, bartering for essentials, seldom using or needing money. Certain villages were so remote that news that a coup had taken place in Lisbon took a considerable time to sink in. The 'cultural dynamisation' programme of the Fifth Division was carried out in many areas in a manner offensive to these peasants. The local power structures were difficult to dismantle, attempts being met by the combined resistance of rural bosses, a very influential clergy and the police.

Generations of ignorance had been fostered by the Catholic Church. Even today spokesmen for the Vatican continue to wield influence both in the North and in Lisbon. Cardinal Cerejeira, the right-hand of Salazar, was allowed to move freely in the capital while his friends, leaders of the PIDE, were arrested. But all this only provides a partial explanation. Half a century of Salazarism had never engendered as much anti-communism among ordinary people as 18 months of PCP participation in various governments. The real roots of power in the countryside had in no way been threatened by the MFA. Of the PIDEs arrested by the First Provisional Government, 75% had been in the South and only some 6% in the North, according to a Lisbon journalist related to the PCP. No priests had been arrested, North or South.

It is widely held that the PCP was guilty of manipulatory malpractices in the North. While this is true, it is also worth noting that neither the PCP nor any of the left groups devoted much thought or showed much concern with the problems in this area. The 'anti-communism' of the North was a complex mood. Its various components were:

a) The fact that the old power structure had been left intact in the towns and countryside. Under new names, the old groups had reorganised to defend them-elves against the state capitalist surge which had proved so successful in the South. b) The lack of any empathy or overall strategy for the peasants in the North at a time when 'primitive' communist practice certainly existed in certain villages, even under fascism.

c) The absence of any direct links between the 'left' and the underprivileged in the North. The PCP influence in the Ministry of Agriculture did almost nothing for the northern peasants. The PCP cell in this ministry, SADA, appointed fellow Party members to posts in various regions of the country, who in turn appointed sub-directors. But that was as far as it got. It was not until IRA (a different branch of the same ministry) began to take up radical stances, outflanking the Party, that the PCP became concerned. When the IRA supported three northern occupations which took place during the first 6 months after April 25th, SADA contacted them to 'look after' the North.

The situation of many of the small tenant farmers either never changed or actually deteriorated. Prices increased while 'wages' remained fixed. Families could eat because they produced for themselves, but there was little they could afford to buy in the towns. This worsening situation was a gift to the various right-wing groups. The elections of April 1975 became a farce. In Sao Joilo do Campo the results had favoured the CDS, with PPD and PS coming second and third. There were very few PCP votes. Of the 250 voters in the village (who believed they had to vote by law) two opted for the PUP. (The PUP had never been anywhere near the place and it is unlikely that maoist ideology had suddenly taken root in the area. These were the protest votes, cast to annoy local friends or the symbol of the PUP was more appealing. The local priest had preached a sermon on the previous Sunday to the effect that 'certain actions lead to hell-fire'. Everyone knew he was a CDS member ... and that this time he didn't mean fornication.


In relation to Europe as a whole Portugal was, by any standards, a backward country. If we look at per capita annual incomes for 1974, for instance, the figure for Portugal is $760 (US). Of the OECD countries, only Turkey comes lower. As a comparison the figure for the USA k $5130, for France $3180, while Spain and Greece were in the $1100 range.

These figures don't include revenues derived from the former Portuguese colonies nor money remitted by emigrant workers. Nor do they take any account of raw materials not yet exploited, like iron ores in the South or oil off the coast of Sines. Also outside the equation are the millions which poured into Portugal from the CIA and Russian sources multaneously.

The Portuguese economy comprised four main sectors:

a) a semi-feudal sector, in which tenant farmers paid part of their rent in the form of labour power or as agricultural produce. Large sections of the North were structured on this pattern. b) a 'liberal capitalist' sector. in which the means of production were owned by private individuals or companies. c) giant monopolies and banks, controlled or owned by the 100 great families. CUF was one such monopoly and accounted for 10% of the gross national product. d) state-owned enterprises involved in the general organisation of raw materials, energy and transport.

Nationalisation of these had started under Salazar.

The political parties reflected all this. In varying degrees, they were based on these various sectors of the economy. Alliances emerged in support of - or in opposition to - these interests. But real life was more complex than this basic model would suggest. Compromises often had to be made: the PPD had to support the PS although they disliked the latter's state-capitalist rhetoric. The majority of the leninist groups supported the PCP, though they disliked the latter's tolerance of 'liberal capitalism'. The MRPP, driven by a paranoid fear that the PCP technocrats would steal the show, made tactical alliances with the PS while admitting the contradiction inherent in such action.

The story of Manuel Goncalves' factory in Famalicao shows some of the problems facing the workers as a result of the international ramifications of capital. The factory had been nationalised soon after March 11th, its boss being implicated in the attempted coup. From Spain this man had written to international suppliers (a Swiss company) instructing them to withhold raw materials unless he personally signed the orders. The workers were out of work for four weeks, without pay. The Administrative Council had been appointed by the PCP, and a PCP-dominated CT had appointed itself. Manuel Gonqalves was of poor origins himself. He had built a swimming pool in the factory for the workers and had provided them with a new canteen. The wages paid were miserable but were better than none. Members of the Gonqalves family within the factory began campaigning to have the boss reinstated. When 200 of the workers (led by these members of the Gonqalves family) called for new elections to the CT, the PCP refused, calling it a 'reactionary manoeuvre'. A demonstration into Famalicao in late June was to lead to the fire-bombing of the PCP headquarters there, in July.

Some of the workers stressed that nationalisation had brought them nothing but hardship. What they meant was that their new boss (the state) was no better than the old one (private capitalism). Indeed state capitalism was in many ways worse: all the previous hardships remained, to which was now added the threat of losing their jobs. Within the factory, labour relations had not changed. Wages hadn't increased. Only insecurity had mounted.

The only groups to support these workers were the CDS, PPD and PS, and they only did so by attacking the new PCP-dominated management. The workers were confused as to what they wanted or how their problems could be solved. After a demonstration in the town of Famalicao in August (under the slogan 'Down with the Workers Committee, Long live the boss') I spoke to some of those involved outside the local cinema, where they were meeting. Their wages were lower than the legal minimum defined by the government. Their anger was expressed as anti-communism.

The bombings and terrorist attacks continued. It is true the weather was dry, but the number of forest fires registered during the summer months was vastly in excess of what was usual. Groups like ELP (Army for the Liberation of Portugal) spearheaded many of the attacks. But it would be evading the real issues to attribute to them the fact that 20,000 people turned up to a demonstration in Braga, early in August, to listen to a speech by the Bishop denouncing the countries 'behind the Iron Curtain'.

The economic problems were serious indeed. Some quarter of a million Portuguese were out of work and without real means of support. The unemployment fund set up by the Third Government was ineffective in great parts of the country. Some 300,000 Angolans were to arrive by October, and more later. Many companies had been abandoned by their bosses because no longer profitable, and taken over by the workers because they needed work. 75% of the deficit in the balance of payments between January and April 1975 was with EFTA and the EEC countries. External and internal markets were closing up.


On July 21 Vasco Gonqalves made his own analysis of the situation. 'The creation of the conditions whereby the workers can progressively come to power implies the existence of a vanguard capable of developing a socialist practice'. He then voiced the state-capitalist policies of the PCP. He had reservations concerning the left.

'Voluntarism and idealism have limited relevance to the building of socialism ... leftism is objectively on the side of the reaction ... its development lies in the failure of the powers that-be to fulfil the requirements of the revolutionary process'.

This was one of the first acknowledgements that mistakes had been made, and that the PCP was in danger of losing ground unless these were rectified. Costa Gomes warned that the 'Lisbon column was in danger of being cut off from the rest of the country' and that 'the revolution was taking place at a pace which the country could not follow'. The division building up within the Revolutionary Council reflected the divisions outside. Vitor Alves was later (Expresso, September 20, 1975) to say that the Council had broken down altogether, and that k was because of this that it had been decided to concentrate power in the hands of a triumvirate. The triumvirate consisted of Vasco Gonqalves (PCP reformism), Costa Gomes ('the Cork'), and Otelo (populism).This move was not to solve the divisions but only to aggravate them. A group of officers on the Council produced a pragmatic document on August 7 which became known as the 'Document of the Nine'. The nine were: Captains Vasco Lourenqo and Sousa e Castro, Majors Costa Neves, Canto e Castro, Melo Antunes and Vitor Alves, Commander Vitor Crespo and Brigadiers Francisco Charais and Pezerat Correia. The last two were Commanders of the Southern and Central regions (Corvacho, who supported the PCP, was responsible for the North). Vasco Lourenco had been the spokesman for the Council of the Revolution while Melo Antunes had written the first programme of the Armed Forces (see Appendix 1). He had also drafted an economic plan before March 11th, a plan which was to be discarded with the nationalisations. Crespo and Alves had been members of the 'Movement of the Captains' from its inception, and had been deeply involved in subsequent events. With their supporters they formed a powerful bloc in the Council of the Revolution.

The essential point in the 'Document of the Nine' was that the revolution was taking place too fast, as a result of which the social and cultural fabric of the country was being damaged. The state apparatus was 'degenerating into anarchy'. 'The country found itself defrauded of the hopes of April 25th', it said, 'and daily the gap was growing between those in Lisbon and the Alentejo - and almost the whole of the rest of the country'. Refusing both the Eastern European model of bureaucratic organisation and leadership and social democratic models from the West, the Nine claimed that the problems of Portuguese society required something new. Stressing the 'left' nature of their project they asked for links to be set up with the EEC and EFTA countries- as well as with 'socialist' and Comecon countries, in short with anyone prepared to do business with Portugal. 'It is necessary to denounce' they said 'the fascist spirit of a project which claims to be socialist, but ends up with bureaucratic dictatorship against the inert masses of the citizens.

While signs of social agitation grew daily, the left groups (from the PCP to LUAR) condemned the document. The signatories were immediately suspended from their duties in the Council (whose democratic-centralist practices they had violated by making the document public)But they continued in their militery duties. The PCP sympathisers on the Council and in the Fifth Division had not the power to demote or cashier them, much as they would have liked to. The chorus against the document was almost unanimous from the left, only certain maoist groups (like the PCP-ml and the AOC) supporting it, in opposition to the 'social-fascist' politics of the PCP. The PS saw their opening. They rushed in with their own programme 'To safeguard the revolution and overcome the crisis' which, along with the 'Document of the Nine', they proposed as a basis for a new government.

Four days later, on August 13, a group of COPCON officers published their own interpretation of the crisis. Their document strangely resembled texts that had been circulating within the PRP-BR and UDP for over a month. Entitled 'A Working Proposal for a Political Programme' (and subtitled 'A Self Criticism of COPCON') it blamed the political parties in the coalition (and particularly the PCP) for generating the crisis. The PCP practice of occupying the Parish Juntas and of allocating grants according to party colours had worsened the situation of the small farmers. Cultural dynamisation had been carried out, the document argued, without due respect for the cultural habits in the villages. The PCP was not alone to blame, for all the coalition parties were responsible for governmental policies. The solution didn't lie in concessions to the right. The document pointed out that liberals who made concessions to the right were, historically, always the first to suffer. It called for 'reinforcement of the alliance between the MFA and the people' and for the strengthening of the organs of people's power. Dependence on imperialism had to be terminated and Portugal had to be made self-sufficient. In order to do this agriculture had to be developed. Rents would have to be frozen and speculation in housing abolished. Socialised medicine and generalised education would be instituted. Power, according to the COPCON document, would have to be maintained in the Armed Forces until the formation of a Popular Assembly at the national level. The election of officers was the only way of maintaining discipline.

None of the political vanguards could hope to carry out the COPCON programme. None of them had the mass base necessary. There was widespread awareness that the implementation of such a policy by any or all of the existing groups - however desirable the programme itself would have resulted in a restructuring of Portuguese society and of its relations with the outside world along 'Russian' or 'Chinese' lines. People realised that these societies were a grotesque parody of socialism. They were societies in which marxism was reduced to a 'discipline of production', determined by the ruling elite. It was not the workers who decided what it was necessary but the leading economists. Decisions were taken in to produce - or how, or at what cost, or at whose cost the interests of the ruling bureaucracy. The workers had to carry out policies which they had never decided. Part of the crisis lay in the ambiguities concerning,who would organise the masses for 'socialism'. People were discussing matters which have haunted the communist movement since the Russian revolution. Was 'the Party' necessary? Would 'the vanguard' come from within the class or 'from without'? In the minds of some, the organs of 'popular power' provided the bricks with which 'the Party' could be built. By manipulating the CTs and CMs (while retaining control of them wherever possible) the various leninist groups hid their own vanguardism'. The class had other ideas. The number of non-party demonstrations show this clearly. On such demonstrations, when political groups tried to raise their party banners, they were shouted out: 'Here, there are no parties'.

The signatories of the two documents ('the Nine' and COPCON) met over dinner on August 14 to work on a third document which might combine the essentials of the other two. Charais and Pezarat (southern and central Commanders) claimed that many of the COPCON proposals were impossible. The talks broke down. Many units supported the COPCON document in Assemblies, but many officers and even ADUs (Democratic Unit Assemblies) supported 'the Nine'. A high-ranking officer from the South said that army discipline was disintegrating and that he no longer felt in command of his own unit.

The PCP-influenced Fifth Division criticised the COPCON document and called for an enquiry into the activities of Vasco Lourenco and 'other officers manipulated by the PS against Vasco Gonqalves and the representatives of the MFA'. But their attempts to concoct a credible plot failed.

The PS and PPD launched a new offensive against the Gonqalves government. They called demonstrations which brought 10,000 people onto the streets chanting 'Out with Vasco', 'For a government of national salvation'. A PCP meeting had to be called off in Porto because of threats. On August 13, soldiers in Braga refused to protect the MDP headquarters, despite orders to do so from PCP northern Commander Corvacho.

On August 18 Vasco Gonqalves made a speech in Almada, across the river from Lisbon, which was to become his epitaph. His language was becoming indistinguishable from that of the PCP. He proclaimed his belief in state capitalism as the next step in the transition to 'socialism'. He stressed the need for a strong vanguard based on the unions and for strong centralised power, which he identified with the Fifth Government. But, much as he called for such a 'vanguard' and for such 'power' they simply didn't exist. Neither Intersindical nor the Fifth Government were trusted by the vast majority of industrial workers, either North or South, or by the peasants and agricultural workers in the North. Undeterred, Vasco Gonqalves went further. He said that if it was necessary to carry out his programme with 'reduced forces', he was prepared to do so.

On the same day the PCP called for a half-hour general strike. This was all but ignored. At the same time some PRP-BR and UDP Neighbourhood and Workers' Committees called a demonstration on August 20 'in support of the COPCON document'. Throughout August 19 Radio Renascenqa kept its channels open to groups who supported the demo. The movement snow-balled: in the end some 200 to 250 Committees gave formal support to what became one of the biggest demonstrations in Portugal since the 'unicidade' demo of January 1975. Some 70,000 people marched to Sao Bento: agricultural workers streamed into Lisbon from the Ribatejo and Alentejo, in tractors and trailers, carrying banners proclaiming 'Agrarian Revolution'.

After a virtuoso display of political acrobatics the PCP eventually 'supported' the demonstration, which they had denounced a week earlier. The main slogans were:

'Immediate application of the COPCON document'; 'Death to ELP and those who support it'; 'An end to the misery of country people'; 'Soldiers, sailors, workers of factory and field, united we shall win'; 'Against fascism, against capital, popular offensive'; 'Against the imperialisms, national independence'; and 'The right to work'. The whole emphasis of the demonstration changed. It had originally been planned as a demonstration 'in support of the COPCON document'. It was now becoming one in support of the Fifth Government. The episode was a clear illustration of the mobilising power still wielded by the PCP, whose attitude seems to have been 'if you can't oppose them, join them'. Many 'left' groups were playing the same game. They were supporting the Fifth Government in an often uncritical way. They 'defended' the PCP-MDP (to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the group) at the expense of open and honest discussions of class problems. Their attitudes were a strange mixture of opportunism and sectarianism. Some even claimed that no discussion with small farmers was possible - because they were small I farmers. Many of these farmers were aware of class division, and some even put the interests of the proletariat above what seemed to be their own immediate interests.

On August 25 FUR (the Front of Revolutionary Unity) was set up. It was to p rove one of the briefest political flirtations (between tile Communist Party and the 'left') in history. Apart from the PCP the 'Front' comprised such strange bedfellows as the MDP, FSP, PRP, MES, LCI, LUAR and the maoist First of May Group. All the 'left' groups doubtless felt that through the 'alliance' they were getting a step nearer to politic all power and they were all prepared to allow the PCP to make the running for them in this particular direction. Despite its 'criticisms of the PCP the left was prepared to support the Fifth Government, when the cards were down. They justified this, saying that the Fifth Government would be better than any conceivable Sixth, and therefore needed support.

On August 26, the day after it had been formed, FUR called a demonstration. The theme was to be 'the continuation of the revolutionary process'. Before the march got under way the maoist First of May Group abandoned the Front. The PCP then introduced slogans other than those agreed and the demonstration proved a fiasco, with PRP and MES walking out. The following day the PCP was thrown out of FUR, which thereby lost its only chance of entering the government.

All the groups in FUR had had their own ideas of how to build theworking class party. MES and PRP-BR were perhaps typical of the leftist groups. They wanted first to strengthen the base groups, in the hope that these would then take power (while they themselves retained the leading role within them). Later the 'real' party of the proletariat would be formed.

The idea of revolution 'from without' was repeatedly questioned by the base itself. FUR was a vanguard for no one except itself. The vast rnajority of base groups, where they existed, had little to do with it. On the whole FUR was made up of petty-bourgeois intellectuals (ex-students and teachers, professional people, etc.) who had the idea of 'saving the working class' - or consciously of using it for their own ends. The groups differed from similar groups in other countries in that the base offered them a shadowy and transient support. For most of the workers, however, the ins and outs of the various ideological factions were incomprehensible; they became fed up with problems which they felt were not theirs and retreated into apathy.

The Fifth Government was doomed, despite a trickle of support still coming in from officers in the Fifth Division or in the Navy. Most officers supported 'the Nine', and many units did too. The Fifth Government, as though realising that its time was up, rushed through a series of laws which included further nationalisations (such as that of the giant monopoly CUF).

In the North the burning of PCP offices continued without respite. The PS and PPD began talking about another government. Accusations and counter-accusations flooded press and radio. In Leiria, in the Centre, PCP and MDP offices were attacked. PCP militants who came in, armed, from nearby towns to defend their headquarters were arrested. In the South and Centre, units called for the resignation of right-wing officers, while in the North some units called for the saneamento of their PCP Commander, Corvacho. The real balance of forces was difficult to gauge accurately. All sorts of dubious communique's were appearing.

The PCP first reacted to all this by producing more and more of its 'MFA-VASCO-POVO' posters, attempting to personalise the revolution in the figure of Vasco Goncalves. But when Otelo finally broke with Goncalves at the Tancos MFA Assembly (see next section) the triumvirate collapsed. Much of the basis of MFA support for the Fifth Government collapsed with it. The PCP, having realised it was on an unsafe ticket with the left, on the streets, - and finding Goncalves a liability -began negotiations with the PS and PPD with a view to a place in a Sixth Government.


The Fifth Government resigned on September 9. Ten days later, a Sixth took office. An important shift in the locus of military power had meanwhile taken place. At the MFA General Assembly in Tancos, on September 6, the 'Group of Nine' around Melo Antunes had succeeded in persuading a majority of Army delegates not to accept the re-election of Vasco Goncalves. The delegates from the Air Force, who were mainly to the right, had then forced a showAown. Having lost his majority Goncalves resigned. The repercussions of these events were to affect the whole power structure in the MFA.

With the departure of 10 members close to Goncalves (including Eurico Corvacho, the northern commander, and Costa Martins, ex-Minister of Labour) the 29 members of the Council were reduced to 19. It was decided not to replace the departing officers. Of the 19 members of the new Council, seven would be chosen by the President and twelve (Navy: 3, Air Force: 3, Army: 6) elected from the three branches of the armed forces. The political make up of the new Council greatly favoured 'the Nine'.

The PCP-Goncalvist hegemony which had developed during the Fourth and Fifth Governments now lay shattered. The PCP even had difficulty in constituting itself into a meaningful opposition within the MFA. They had played the power game and lost, being literally evicted in the process from the higher echelons of the military apparatus. Having been pushed off the top of this particular ladder, the PCP started supporting and manipulating rank-and-file groups in the Services, seeking there y to pressurise the MFA into reintegrating some of its members.

The new Council didn't fare much better. Its first attempted action was a total flop. It forbade all units to issue texts or manifestos, unless they had been okayed by the Council. The instruction was widely condemned in the press ... and the units merely ignored it! It was aimed at stopping groups like SUV (Soldiers United Will Win) which had come into existence early in September from making political statements. It soon became obvious that this order could not be enforced.

Admiral Pinheiro de Azevedo became Prime Minister of the Sixth Provisional Government. He had been a member of the original 'Movement of the Captains' and had led the assault on the PIDE offices on April 25th. The regime still needed its radical image, if only to coat the pill of what it was now to propose. The aims of the new administration were spelled out, unambiguously:

1) To establish its own legitimacy 2) To guarantee the functioning of the Constituent Assembly 3) To decentralise the administration 4) To avoid purges taking an 'arbitrary' form 5) To create conditions in which the courts could function 6) To promote legislation which would punish armed civilians 7) To reanimate the private sector and restructure the state sector 8) To strengthen relations with the EEC and EFTA countries.

The Sixth Government comprised four PS ministers, two PPD, one SEDES, and one PCP. The four 'military' seats went to officers who supported 'the Nine'. The two independents were 'right of centre'. The creation of the new government was hailed by both the PS and PPD as a 'victory for democracy'. It was well received by the ruling classes, internationally. The US and EEC promised massive aid. But the problem of governing Portugal was not to prove so easy.