II. The Background

Portugal - The Impossible Revolution? -- Phil Mailer



In the 15th century Portugal began taking full advantage of its easy access to the maritime routes between the Atlantic and thc Mediterranean. Her navigators (as indeed the Spaniards) discovered and conquered far away territories. In less than a century Portugal established a great colonial empire extending from South East Asia to South America and taking in its sweep large parts of Africa.

The predominantly feudal nature of Portuguese society influenced the way it was to use its new possessions. A rudimentary exploitation was resorted to, based on the pillage of natural resources. Indigenous populations were turned into slaves. Profits and plunder formed the basis of a privileged stratum in Portugal itself, especially in Lisbon, whose riches were directly dependent upon the colonies.

The new mercantile bourgeoisie came into existence on the basis of this early trade in slaves, spices and diamonds. lt was content to join with the landowning classes in extracting wealth from the overseas territories in the most primitive of ways, without seeking to engage in any productive activity. The Crown and land owners kept an eye on the merchants, taking a percentage of the profits through customs duties. The Portuguese Crown Monopolies during this period yielded 40 times as much as the French Royal Monopoly was to yield in the following century, during the period of French expansion.

The situation in the Low Countries, in France and especially, in Britain was altogether different. The rising bourgeoisie set out to share in the colonial booty, helping themselves en route to various parts of the Portuguese em p ire. But they also engaged in productive activities at home. By the early 18th century they had established a secure basis for their own trade, both in their respective countries and in the international sphere.

During the Peninsular Wars (1807-1814) Napoleonic troops swept across Spain and Portugal. The Portuguese bourgeoisie appealed to Britain for help. The effects of the war and of the debt to Britain (the help proved costly) weakened the entire basis of Portuguese colonialism. Brazil became independent in 1822. Portuguese armies, necessary to 'protect' the remaining colonies proved expensive to raise and Portugal was forced to rely on Britain to protect its declining empire from the appetites of covetous neighbours.

A good deal of its empire gone, Portugal was forced to submit to British capitalism. English merchants gained ready access to the Portuguese market. The agreement was made on Portugal's behalf by the feudal land-owners and latifundiarios supported by the non-industrial bourgeoisie: it led to the so-called 'Anglo-Portuguese Alliance' which the British used (and broke) at will and to their advantage. By promising assistance, Britain walked in through the back door, gaining favoured positions in trade in addition to the territories already seized. The, agreement ruined sections of the smaller bourgeoisie, disfavouring them in trade and making it harder for them to accumulate capital. Their discontent drove them to engage in the great liberal struggles of 1810-1836,led by such groups as the 'House of 24'. But it was a futile struggle, without attainable objectives. The only significant result was a break-up and redistribution of some of the larger latifundios. A stratum of smaller landowners was created from whom a few peasants were enabled to lease land. The main structure didn't really change and industrialisation wasn't able to gain a proper hold.

The result was the relative decline of Portugal and the continued impotence of her industry. Such an unfavourable position was further aggravated by the emergence of an anticolonial struggle in Angola and Mozambique. The reduction in the flow of colonial booty made it necessary to industrialise to some extent. Small businesses achieved a certain success (tobacco, preserves, glass, textiles, agricultural and consumer goods). This industrialisation was limited despite the favourable conditions opened up by the First World War. In 1917, of Portugal's population of six million, only 130,000 worked in inifustry, over half for companies employing less than 100 people.

This embryonic proletariat was radical in the extreme. In 1917 and 1918 it showed that it was a force to be reckoned with. But the weak structure of Portuguese capitalism allowed little leeway for economic concessions. State power became ever more repressive (a state of siege was declared in November 1918). The continued deficit in the balance of payments reached enormous proportions in the last years of the Republic (1910-1926). It caused the middle classes to intervene on the side of a rigid state control, aimed at restricting the workers' struggle and allowing capitalist development to take place without interference. But industria development never took place to any substantial degree. The workers' struggles and the inability of the Republican leaders to deal with the frail and sick economy only led to the military interven-tion of 1926 and to the subsequent proclamation of the 'Estado Novo' by Salazar.

Salazar's type of fascism was the form best adapted to an underdeveloped country. Originally, Salazarism was based on an alliance of financial-colonial and agricultural capital. The policies of the Estado Novo were designed to reduce class struggle at home and opposition in the colonies. The price of agricultural goods was maintained by the State at a very low level, thus progressively ruining the smaller landowners. At the same time the unions were replaced by official 'sindicatos'. The industrial bourgeoisie also had to toe the line, being obliged to organise on a corporative basis. There was a ban on all public meetings, strikes, etc. No opposition was tolerated.

In Angola, Mozambique and Guine'-Bissau fascism meant all of this, plus the pillage and robbery of natural resources.

Portuguese neutrality during the Second World War allowed the economy to enjoy a small boom. Certain products (especially tropical fruits and coffee) were sold to the warring nations at high price. The boom allowed the burgeoning of yertain new industries, mainly textiles. For the first time in the history of Portugal, an economic basis developed for an alliance between financial and industrial capital. But the alliance was shaky and scarcely challenged the supremacy of the colonial land-owners and latifundiarios.

In the early 1950's the bottom fell out of the market for tropical fruits. This affected Portugal disastrously. Agricultural production actually declined. A change in emphasis was introduced with the laune hingofth e first Five Year Development Plan in 1955. The industrial sector slowly began to grow.

This struggle between industrial and financial capital had political repercussions: 'progressive' capitalists began to bid for power. While the Salazarist regime brutally cut off all possibilities of political change, they could hardly halt international market pressures, nor hold back the economic tide. Their difficulties in dealing with the stagnation of their own economy were only 'solved' by increased plunder of the colonies and increased exploita-tion of the work-force at home. Colonial pillage and the 'success' of other 'national liberation' struggles in Africa led to the launching of armed revolts in the early 1960's.

The productive bourgeoisie were for a long time unable to break the constraints imposed by this sort of economy. In the struggle between the industrial and the colonial bourgeoisie the former eventually gained the ascendancy and in 1962 Portugal joined EFTA (the European Free Trade Association), an organisation then dominated by Britain.

Three African wars were now being waged. The colonial bourgeoisie was desperately attempting to hold onto the reins of power. All politics became the sole prerogative of the ruling National Action Party. In 1949 General Norton de Matos had attempted to stand in the presidential election but had withdrawn on the ground that no fair contest was possible. In 1951, Professor Rui Luis Gomes was disqualified from the elections because he had stated that he would refuse to take the mandatory oath of allegiance to the Council of State. The franchise was so limited that neither of these candidates would have stood much chance anyway. Even the President's answerability to the people was removed in 1959, as an extra safeguard for the regime. Meanwhile increased activities by the PIDE (both in Portugal and among Portuguese immigrants in Paris) sought to terrorise all opponents of the regime, even those with electoral illusions.

Exports during 1960-70 rose by 11.4% (which was higher than in most EFTA countries). But the soaring cost of imports in the weak industrial sector caused a mounting deficit in the balance of payments. In its trade with the colonies Portugal played the dual role of importer of raw material and supplier of finished products from Europe, whereas in its trade with Western Europe, the pattern was reversed. The pillage of the Portuguese colonies was thus directly underwritten by Western capitalism.

The logic of the colonial war was only too obvious. But so too was the logic of industrialisation. Portugal's weak infrastructure would not allow a 'neo£olomalist' way out. Portuguese industry could not itself transform the raw materials into finished products and could not compete with others in doing so. The colonial wars dragged on. Compulsory military service was increased to four years. The price in men and money grew. In 1968 war costs comprised 44%of the total budget. They reached 49%in 1971. And what was there to show at the end of all the fighting? Only an increased deficit in the balance of payments and very little industrialisation.

European countries and the US supported these policies economically. They needed the raw materials from the Portuguese colonies, which they could resell on the world market (including Portugal and its colonies, purchasing power permitting) as finished products. During the late 1960's they also rediscovered an old use for Portuguese labour. Confronted with increased labour costs at home (due to increased resistance on the part of 'their own' working classes) they found a ready supply of cheap labour from Portugal. France had known this for some time and had allowed massive immigration of Portuguese workers. But such large migrant work-forces created their own problems: it was in many ways easier to move the factory to the source of cheap labour than to move the labour. With support from the Portuguese government a number of capitalist countries exported their machines to transform raw materials and built plants within Portugal itself. Foreign investment in Portugal rose by 300%between 1963 and 1969. In 1971 alone 392 branches of foreign firms started operating in Portugal, constituting over 20% of the country's total capital. Despite this industrialisation, less than 40% of the population in 1970 worked in industry. A third of the population still worked as agricultural labourers. Many of them were working for latifund ia'rios. In 1967 the average wage was 19 escudos per day. The housing situation was appalling. An estimated 150,000 people were living in shanty towns concentrated around Lisbon. Prices were rising at a considerable rate. This was partly related to the colonial wars, but also to Portugal's international monetary difficulties.

The main Portuguese industries were labour-intensive. Many were foreigndominated In 1969 one third of all private investment in Portugal was financed by foreign capital. The USA occupied first position. Britain came second. The concentration of the labour force had not proceeded very far. Figures for 1964 show that the number of companies employing over 1000 workers was only 49 . They included some of the most powerful companies and multinationals in the world such as Lisnave (ship builders) and Sacor (oil refineries). Both were partly Swedish-owned. Monopolies like CUF (who had owned large parts of Guinea-Bissau) held majority interests in the wood, mineral and tobacco industries. They were themselves largely controlled by a combination of Franco-Belgian, American, West German and British capital. Portuguese capitalism was weak and the nationalisation of monopoly capital was clearly a way out for it. So was the concentration of indigenous capital in the hands of the State. This drive towards state-capitalist 'solutions' (which was to gain tremendous impetus after April 25th) could however solve nothing for the working class, despite all the mystifications perpetrated on this score by various 'left' organisations. Indeed it will be one of the main themes of this book that today, whether they like it or not, the traditional left are evervwhere one of the main midwives ot state capitalism.Their interventions, whether they are in government or not, often assist the State to recuperate the results of working class struggles, thereby driving the economy still further along the state-capitalist path.


The origin of the workers' movement in Portugal can be traced hack to 1850, with the setting up of the first trade unions and the publication of the paper 0 Eco dos Opercirios. The petty-bourgeois struggles under the leadership of the 'House of 24' had failed. The Proudhonist type of cooperative shops and banks, and the calls for land distribution, were seen by the qmerging working class as of little value to them. Between 1855-66 the group around the newspaper A Federacao moved in the direction of trade unionism. But it was not until after 1871 - with the setting up of a branch of the First International - that any real movement got under way.

The branch of the International was essentially marxist. Unlike what happened in Spain the Bakuninists found little support. Marxist pamphlets were translated and distributed in Porto and Lisbon during the 1880's.

At this stage, however, another tradition was to prove even stronger: republicanism. The failure of the liberal reforms and the continued stifling of the petty bourgeoisie eventually led to demands for the abolition of the monarchy, for the setting up of a constitutional parliamentary regime and for the abrogation of the royal taxes. A Republican Party, founded in 1876, was modelled on the Mazzini groups in Italy. During the late 1880's 'carbonarios' and clubs sprouted all over Portugal. They called for demonstrations against British domination of Portuguese trade and against British influence in Mozambique. The agitation spread. Socialists began to participate in the campaigns.

An abortive revolution took place on January 31, 1891. It failed partly because of the military cohesion of the regime, but also because large sections of the working population did not support it, sensing that these struggles were only in the interests of the petty bourgeoisie. The defeat of the movement led to large-scale repression. Both the socialist and the republican clubs were banned. The reign of terror which followed under the Franco dictatorship allowed little room for organisation.

The assassination of King Don Carlos (in February 1908) was only one event in a growing undercurrent of unrest and revolt. Republicanism became implanted in! the armed forces at this time. Many large meetings of officers openly discussed the issue. There was little that Joao Franco (who had assumed the title of King) could do to halt the inevitable. The explosion took place on October 5, 1910. Revolutionary troops marched on Lisbon, led by known republicans. But the sailors who bombarded strategic positions in Lisbon were socialists. In many ways the socialists had been duped by republican ideology and promises, although it was doubtless easier for them to work under a republican structure than under a monarchy. The struggles continued. Gcyvernments were to come at the rate ot two a year over the next 16 years and large strikes and demonstrations filled the streets of Lisbon on several occasions. The years 1917-18 saw the first attempts at a genaral strike. A state of siege had twice to be declared by the government.

The essentially petty-bourgeois republican governments never secured a real mass basis. Their anti-clericalism alienated large sections of the Catholic peasantry, while their failure to satisfy any of the workers' demands made them unpopular in the large urban areas. Peasant opposition was given popular though mystical expression in the 'Miracle of Fatima' in 1917. (The Blessed Virgin was reported to have appeared to three peasant children.) The dissatisfaction of the urban proletariat remained a chronic threat to various republican administrations. Until 1926 there was continual 'disorder' in the country. This led finally to the right-wing coup of May 28, 1926. Two years later, in April 1928, Dr. Salazar, a 37 year old lecturer in 'Economic and Financial Sciences' at Coimbra University was appointed Finance Minister by President Carm6na. He had asked for financial control of the entire machinery of government and his demands had been accepted. In 1932 Salazar became Prime Minister. His declaration of the Estado Novo, in 1933, grew directly out of the great struggles of the preceding years. Between 1926 (the right-wing army coup) and 1933 (the formal promulgation of the Corporative Constitution) the armed forces were restive. There were several attempts at counter-coups and at palace revolution: Porto, February 7, 1927; Lisbon, July 20, 1928; Madeira, April 1931; Lisbon, August 26, 1931. This undercurrent of unrest was not confined to the military. Many armed civilians took part in the revolts. With the proclamation of the Estado Novo, strikes were declared illegal. But, precisely because of this, large strike movements became movements of opposition to the new state. They reached a climax in 1934, when the working class attempted an insurrection. Its defeat was a brutal forerunner of the defeat of the Spanish Revolution of 1936.

During the five days it lasted, the 1934 uprising highlighted many key problems of the working class movement. Two dominant leaderships were thrown up, which in turn were overthrown. Neither of them proved acceptable in struggle and both were forced to integrate into autonomous proletarian movements produced in the crisis, i.e. into the 'revolutionary committees'.

The general strike of January 18, 1934 was total in its solidarity. A state of siege was declared. The GNR and PSP were called in. Despite widespread armed resistance they quickly put down the insurrection. In certain areas the fighting lasted longer. In Marinha Grande, north of Lisbon, the local revolutionary committees (composed of members of both the CGT and PCP, as wefl as of local unaligned militants) called for direct action. The population attacked the GNR barracks from which they obtained weapons. Telephone links were cut ,roads blocked, and a soviet declared. This soviet, the first in Portugal, made preparations for the siege. The Salazarist forces met tremendous opposition all the way to Marinha Grande. But after two days of fierce fighting the town was occupied and the uprising crushed. Most of the leaders were arrested and deported to Angola and Tarrafal, in the Cabo Verde Islands, where the infamous 'slow death' camps were set up. Concentration camps were also set up throughout Portugal itself Thousands of strikers lost their jobs. There is no doubt that the uprising of January 1934 influenced the strike of the Asturian miners, later that year.

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) Salazar sent 40,000 troops to help the fascist uprising. There was some opposition: the crews of three ships sent to Franco's aid (the Djo, the Afonso de Albuquerque and the Bartolomieu Dias) mutinied in the Tagus. They were shelled by the batteries and the mutineers were all arrested. The PCP,which hadwanted to work legally,was outlawed.Those of its leaders still at large were driven into exile. The anarcho-syndicalist organisation was completely smashed. The PCP gradually recovered. It started to strengthen its organisation abroad. It also began a clandestine campaign to form nuclei within the factories. For the anarcho-syndicalists the defeat proved more permanent. The fascist apparatus consolidated itself. Each bill passed by the state represented a further entrenchment of bourgeois power, a further attack on the working class. Any action outside the straitjacket of such organisations as the Portuguese Legion, the Greenshirts (Mocidade Portuguesa) or the syndicates was made virtually impossible. The working class was politically stifled. Only at work could it fight back.

A plot to assassinate Salazar in July 1937 was foiled, as were hundreds of other activities of a political nature. After the defeat of the Spanish Revolution the world was thrown into an inter-imperialist World War, during which Portugal remained neutral.

During the next two decades many workers supported - however misguidedly - moves made by various sections of the bourgeoisie to recover control of the state apparatus from the more explicitly fascist groups. The PCP was in the forefront in its support of such moves. Its 'anti-fascist' ideology was an obstacle to autonomous organisation. In 1958 the electoral campaign of Humberto Delgado received wide working class endorsement: many felt that it might be easier to organise under a more open regime. The FPLN was set up in 1964. It brought the PS and PCP into a 'front' of class collaboration with liberals like Delgado. In 1965, after Delgado had been assassinated by the political police, these ill-founded hopes were again to be dashed. Delgado had enjoyed some support within the army. After his 'disappearance' a group of officers (the so-called Independent Military Opposition) organised a revolt but were thwarted by the police, who learned of their plans.

Opposition to Salazarism smouldered on within the armed forces, and this even before the onset of the colonial wars. One of the most spectacular attempts to call attention to Portuguese (an'{Sp anish) fascism was the highjacking of the liner 'Santa Maria'. On January 22, 1961 a group of army and ex-army men seized the ship on her journey from Miami to Caracas. International press and TV took up the incident. Henrique Galvao explained, in an interview with a French newspaper, the position of DRIL (Revolutionary Command for Iberian Liberation): 'We don't merely want a change of government, but a revolution both in Spain and in Portugal'. After twelve days the liner eventually docked in Brazil. Galvlo and others were forced into exile.

The regime was not only challenged from within the army. A strike of Alentejo miners in 1960 (against sackings) led to the arrest of 150 workers, many of whom were tortured by PIDE. Strikes, although illegal, continued. Workers would 'turn in sick', all on the same day. In the universities a considerable movement (the Associative Movement) developed between 1961 and 1963, provoking large-scale police repression.

The struggles intensitied after 1968. Transport workers were involved in 1969. They didn't stop work, but merely refused to collect fares. This action proved tremendously popular. The men asked for a 40-hour week and for a 'thirteenth month' (on full pay). Despite the repressive apparatus within the factories, the increase in the cost of living compelled the workers to defend themselves and to seek pay rises. In 1969 textile workers came out on strike, provoked by collective dismissals in the industry (caused partly by textile employers moving their operations to Angola, where a higher rate of profit was assured). The plant at Abelheira was occupied by the workers and some 30 to 40 other textile factories came out in sympathy. The GNR had to be used to dislodge the strikers. The electronics industry proved an important arena of struggle during 1972-73. Electro-Arco were on strike in 1973 and solidarity actions occurred in other parts of the industry. Strikes were also registered at Robbialac, Cometna, Sorefame, Ima (Setflbal), Bis, Mondet, Eduardo Jorge, Sacor, Fabrica dos Gallegos, Luso-Italiana, Sildex, J. Pimenta, Messa Regina, Standard Electrica, Transul, Lisnave, Sepsa, Soda P6voa, Timex, Parry & Son, CVF, Telemec, etc. In certain cases the workers were given pay increases. In most instances the strikes were repressed. But working people had shown that whether 'the right to strike' existed or not, they had to fight to defend themselves.

The overall legacy was terrible, both in Portugal (where the rate of economic growth had been stifled to below that of the colonies) and in the colonies themselves, where most of the natural resources had been plundered and the people kept in ign prance. The international bourgeoisie had left Portugal under-developed to an extent where it came last in most of the positive OECD statistics, and first; in most of their negative ones. Of a population of 9 million, over a million had emigrated.


Lenin sald that revolution was possible when the ruling class couM no longer rule and when the rest of the people wouldn't continue in the old way. This is an inadequate list of p reconditions. If revolution is not to mean just a change of rulers, one should add to Lenin's prescription that the people should have some idea of what they want to replace the old society with. The Portuguese ruling classes had shown their ineptitude and weakness. They were discredited and hopelessly divided. Their political and legislative institutions were in chaos. The people cleady wanted a change. But what change? The coup of April 25th had released forces which it would prove difficult to control, and which still had to define themselves.

The workers are everywhere on the offensive. To remain in the picture the bourgeoisie has to 'support' popular demands and to endorse what has already been done. All the newspapers, for instance, say they agree with the economic claims of the working class. All 'support' the 1st of May. But the smaller capitalists are anxious. They are bound to be the first to lose in the present wave of demands. The larger enterprises can sustain strikes and the freezing of their capital for longer periods. They are not going to give up without a syruggle. In the short run, they may even profit from a situation which, by eliminating their competitors, tends to reinforce their dominion.

The country seems to be turned inside out. Energy, long dormant, is erupting everywhere. Didno de Lisboa (May 4th, 1974) carries news of a strike in the mines of Alentejo, the first in this province: some 1500 workers are demanding a minimum monthly wage of 4000 escudos and 8 days annual holiday.

On May 8 there is a strike by the conductors of trains to Cascais, a middle class seaside resort about 20 km from Lisbon. The trains are running, but no tickets are being sold or collected. A notice in the station says: 'You don't have to pay. Go anywhere you like. Have a nice trip. Have a nice day'. The strike is tremendously popular. These trains have first and second class compartments. Adult workers continue to use the second class ones. But the working class kids go into the first class carriages. They are a travelling theatre, smoking their fat, imaginary cigars as they walk up and down the aisles of the carriages.

The First Provisional Government is proclaimed on May 16,1974. The PCP, PS and PPD each hold 2 seats. CDE and SEDES (a conservative technocratic group who had opposed Caetano's economic policies) have a seat each. There are seven military ministers of unknown political colour. The Prime Minister is Palma Carlos. He een a corpdration lawyer for many of the larger firms, but had also defended Mano Soares at a trial in the 1960's.

The Government's programme stresses: 1) measures to combat speculation and fraud 2) reform of the banking system 3) nationalisation of the 'national' banks 4) assistance to small and medium-sized business 5) recognition of the fact that the solution to the war is political and not military 6) continuation of neighbourly relations with Spain 7) intensification of relations with Common Market countries 8) establishment of diplomatic relations with all countries 9) the fixing of a minimum wage.

The Minister of Labour (Avelino Goncalves) is a member of the PCP. (PCP members were to occupy this post mt he Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth governments too.) Communications are taken over by the director of Repith/ica, Dr Raul Rego. Real power is exercised by the Junta, but how homogeneous a body is it? The Programme of the MFA remains the most important document or statement of aims now circulating, and is more widely discussed than the government's own programme.

By the middle of May a truly remarkable situation exists. Political discussion is taking place in the factories, in the streets, in the cafe's. Masses of people are criticising, then engaging in direct action. The political organisations and 'leaders' are trying to keep pace, to draw the conclusions, to 'translate popular demands into political programmes One can isolate certain groups with clear-cut programmes. First there is the MFA, itself consisting of two inter-related thotigh separate organisations (the Junta proper, presided over by General Spinola and made up of three generals, a brigadier and two captains; and the 'Movement of the Captains' which has more radical views). The Junta had proclaimed the Programme of the Armed Forces. It is the½ Then there are the Communists and Socialists. Together they seem to have captured the feeling ofthe country. In the cities at least they appear wellorganised. They form a sizeable minority within the government and dominate the unions. The Communists are the most 'cautious' of all. The essence of their message is 'Save the National Economy'. 'Don't strike'. 'Don't do anything which could bring back the fascism we have just overthrown'. It isunbelievable how Completely a party can expose itself in the course of a few weeks. The experience of Chileis quoted everywhere to justify 'caution'. No one argues the opposite case: that it was Allende's inability to go beyond the bounds of bourgeois democracy that led tohis eventual downfall. No one knows the strength of thereaction, or indeed of the revolutionary forces. Every thing has yet to be tested. Meanwhile Intersindical has been formed, as a confederation of various unions, and the PCP is the main influence within it.

The various capitalist parties constitute the third political trend, weak but undoubtedly still present. The PPD, grouped around Sa' Carneiro, Minister without Portfolio, has some credibility. It is supported by business elements and by the petty-bourgeoisie who see the restoration of 'democracy' in Portugal as a passport into the Common Market. Private enterprise, they state,should be given the 'freedom' and 'boost' necessary to help it overcome its economic difficulties. Among other avowedly capitalist parties are the Liberals, the Monarchists, the Labour Party and the PS win of CDE.

The fourth group (the 'far left') had been as unprepared for the new situation as the capitalists. It comprised Maoists, the PRP-BR, MES, LUAR and the Trotskyists. Candidates for 'leadership' have sprung up everywhere. Where there had been only one political party, there is now a super-abundance of them. Known groups organise. Others, formerly clandestine, emerge into daylight. No one knows how many parties there are,let alone groups. No one knows their strength, or how important they are - or could become. All are puttingout leaflets under impressive titles, claiming for them-selves dubious monopolies both of the dialectic and o funderstanding. For the time being all are listened to.

The Maoists had not succumbed to the general euphoria of April 25th. The MRPP had immediatelycome out with a manifesto criticising the Junta as a bourgeois reformist group, operating directly or indirectly in the interests of Capital. In their paper o Ternpo e a Modo they analysed the situation (Appendix 3) under the heading 'As p&talas para a burguesia, Os espinhos para a povo' (Flowers for the bourgeoisie, thorns for the people). The MRPP had been founded in 1970, in opposition to the 'revisionism' and dogmatism of the Communist Party. In December of that year they had launched a paper (Red Banner) in which they had sought to analyse the working class movement in Portugal. In 1971 they began the publication of Luta Popular,supporting various demonstrations against the colonial war. in that year several of their members were involved in strikes in factories in the Lisbon area and in Ribatejo,to the north of Lisbon, trying to 'inject into them the ideology of a struggle against the colonial wars'. In 1972 one of their leaders, Ribeiro Santos, had been shot during an anti-war demonstration. His funeral. I rememberclearly, had been turned into an open police hunt forrevolutionaries. During 1973 - and up to the coup the MRPP had called many anti-war demonstrations. A number of their leaders had been imprisoned.

More important, however, in moulding the ideology of the far left was the PRP, the Revolutionary Party of the Proletariat. The PRP had joined forces with the Revolutionary Brigades. These groups had been responsible for many of the bombings in the previous year, especially the dramatic attack on the Ministry ofCommunications. They had also been involved in the burning of a troop-ship scheduled to leave for the colonies .The PRP had distributed its manifesto (Appendix 4)Immediately after the coup. Its rhetoric and use of slogans differed from that of the Maoists, though the actual message was similar. The coup, they said, was a bourgeois coup. It had been triggered by the crisis brought about by the war, inflation, and the onslaught of the workers. It was the 'liberal bourgeois' who were taking the reins from the fascists, modernising and reforming the old capitalist structures.

By far the best known of the left-wing groups was the LUAR, to which we have already referred. Palma Inacio, its leader, had been arrested the previous October on his return to Portugal with the mission of freeing some political prisoners. The problem with the 'revolutionary' groups is their isolation. The workers can hear them but cannot see them. Their views are read and discussed by the workers, but only in the form of ideology. They don't have any concrete meaning. The 'revolutionaries' remain outsiders, giving advice from the sidedines while the PCP, through the unions, is steadily taking control of the industrial apparatus. On a Friday night, when everyone has finished work and has drunk a litre or more, it is easy to be revolutionary, easier than on a Monday morning with a week's work in front of one and bills to pay. The revolutionary workers are also isolated and easily dominated by the political groups.

The previously unimaginable is also on one's doorstep. Women organise a demonstration outside the headquarters of the Junta. A Capital reports their demands:

'After April 25th certain fascist buildings were re-allocated to political groups. Since we women constitute over 52% of the population it might be thought that our groups would also be given a place. We are the main victims of fascist ideology which sought to relegate us to the traditional toils of women, completely alienated from the rest of society. It is known that the depolitisation of women and their tendency to vote right-wing is directly related to the complete absence of movements and organisations acting in their interests. Despite this the Junta is not considering the Women's Movement as worthy of attention or interest. Why? Is it, yet again, to be discrimination against women?

On May 28 Didno de Lisboa carries a manifesto by the prostitutes of Lisbon (who work mainly in the dock area). After pointing out that they 'had to practice, illegally, what was the most ancient profession in the world' and that although their lives were generally considered 'easy' this was far from being the ease, the manifesto went on to demand the creation of a union where 'free from all puritan pressures, they could discuss the problems of their class'. Their main concerns were their exploitation by pimps, the need to protect minors, the determination of a scale of charges, the promotion of a 'free pavement' aimed at 'developing tourism' and opposition to 'the scandalous activities of conservative Colleagues who only practice in expensive nightclubs'. They offered their support t otheMFA.For a period of a year, all ranks below that of lieutenant would only be charged half price.'

Some three weeks earlier Dicino de Lishoa had carried a manifesto of the 'Movement of Revolutionary Homosexuals' (see Appendix 5). They had been severely persecuted during the old regime, their bars and clubs being repeatedly raided. They now asked for an end to discrimination. These and other manifestos cause General Galvao de Melo, a member of the Junta, to bemoan the 'debasement of April 25th'. 'Our glorious revolution' he said 'is turning into a movement of prostitutes and homosexuals'.

On May 25, the government decreed a wage freeze. There would be a minimum wage of 3300 escudos (the general demand of the workers had been for 6000 escudos). All wages above 7500 escudos would be frozen. I believe this affected the top 25% of wage earners. Under the title 'The government prepares another anti-popular measure' the MES p ut out a manifesto against the freezing of wages see Appendix 6). The freeze is unpopular but is accepted half-heartedly. So is the decision to allow the ex-Prime Minister and ex-President to fly to Brazil.

On the night of the decree the two largest halls in Lisbon witness two of the biggest meetings yet held. The largest is the PCP meeting held in the Sports Pavflion. An estimated 10,000 people gather to listen to speeches calling for unity, collaboration with the Provisional Government, and organisation of the working class through unions. The main themes are the dangers of a fascist counter-attack and the need to be calm and to bepatient. Jaime Serra calls on the audience 'to consolidate the victories gained in the revolution, to open up a true democratisation of the country, to strengthen the alliance with the Armed Forces'. Another Party member asks how demands which don't take into account what the gross national product allows, excessive lessening of working hours which would reduce production, and the over-use of certain forms of struggle, particularly the strike, would prejudice the national economy and cause chaos. No employers' representative could have put it better. The meeting ended with the singing of the Internationale. A gathering of the MES, on the other hand, attracted about 2000 in a hall normally used as a circus. Here the main themes were revolutionary unity and support for demonstrations against the Colonial war, planned for the coming week.


Captain Peralta was a Cuban captured by the old regime in Guinea-Bissau and accused of aiding the 'terrorists' there. He was brought back to Lisbon, tried and sentenced to two years. Later, he was 'retried' and the sentence increased to ten years. He was in the Army Medical Hospital on the day Caxias was liberated. Peralta, it seems, had first been considered a prisoner of war and was to be exchanged for Portuguese taken prisoner in Guinea. Then the story leaked that the old regime had planned to swap him for an American CIA agent sentenced to 30 years' jail for spying in Cuba. The deal between the Portuguese fascists and Castro's regime had been made through Vatican diplomacy. In return the Portuguese were to have received military aid from the USA. The MFA inherited the situation. At first they denied that Peralta was to be swapped for an American CIA agent but refused to say why this political prisoner of the old regime was not being released.

On May 25 a ME S-sponsored demonstration gathered outside the hospital and demanded his immediate freedom. Two thousand young demonstrators sat on the steps of the church opposite and carried out a 20-hour vigil, halting traffic and singing anti-colonial songs. A police official arrived on the scene and asked the demonstrators to leave, telling them that Peralta was no longer in the hospital and that they were disturbing the other patients. The Army was brought in, together with a force of the Natioyial Guard and PSP (riot police). Again the order to disperse was given. The PRP and the Trotskyists groups decided that it would be a tactical error to confront the police and retired from the scene. The Maoists held firm. Water cannons and tear gas were used against them.

Radio Renascenca, (taken over by its workers the previous week, were ordered to stop broadcasting their live coverage of this demonstration. To ensure compliance their studio was occupied by the Army.

The Peralta mystery has never been clarified. The important lesson of this episode is that it showed that revolutionary groups would be attacked if the order to do so was given. It was the first demonstration in Portugal, after April 25th, to be forcibly broken up by the police.

There are various reasons why the authorities were able to break up this demonstration. Most of the demonstrators had been students and not workers. Had they been workers it is doubtful whether, in the prevailing climate, the armed forces (hailed as the 'liberators of the working class') would have attacked, for that image was still useful to them. It showed the groups how thin their support was, and how narrow their real base.

The PCP refused to comment on the affair. It neither condemned the decision nor supported it. In many ways it was a victory for them, consolidating their image as the down-to-earth, responsible leaders of the workers, Concentrating on the 'real problenys facing the country'. But the following week Intersindical organised a large meeting 'against the enemies of the Workers. There was no doubt that this was meant to include the 'pseudo-revolutionaries of the far-left', who had demonstrated for Peralta's release.