Portugal - The Impossible Revolution? -- Phil Mailer
IV. THE RETURN TO REALITY
The new Prime Minister, Vasco Goncalves, turned out to be a colonel who had been an activist on April 25th. The Second Provisional Government comprised 7 military and 8 civilian members. Both Cunhal and Soares retained their positions. Little was known, at this time, of the political leanings of its various military members. It was generally felt that the government was more 'left' than the first, although also more heavily weighted with military personnel. The short life of this government (July-September 1974) was to be dominated by three important events: the confrontation with workers in big enterprises like TAP and Lisnave, the bitter struggle over the anti-strike law, and an increasing tendency for right-wing forces to organise outside of the government ... and even outside of the MFA. These closely interrelated events were all to contribute to the attempted coup of September 28 and to Spinola's exist from Portuguese politics. They were also to show the irrelevance of trying to attribute various degrees of leftness to governments of the bourgeoisie.
TAP, LISNAVE AND OTHER DISPUTES
During the summer of 1974 some 400 companies registered disturbances of various kinds. Among these were some of the largest enterprises in Portugal: Mabor (tyre manufacture), Sacor (oil), Efacec-Inel (electrical components), Lisnave (shipyards), CTT (postal services), Timex (watches), TAP (airlines), and so on. Sacor was the biggest oil company in the Iberian peninsula, Lisnave one of the largest ship-building enterprises anywhere in the world (in Europe, second only to Harland and Wolff of Belfast). Some of these strikes proved eye-openers for many workers, particularly to those who believed that the PCP was their Party.
TAP was a semi-state company, run on a marginal budget. It competed with British Airways for a lucrative European and African trade but had neither the capital nor the privileged position of London from which to operate. The issues which led to the strike were basic enough: the workers were demanding better wages and decreased working hours. These demands could probably have been met by granting TAP better guarantees in relation to African flights.
The TAP workers had a history of militancy. Organised struggles had begun as far back as 1970, when workers all turned in sick together in pursuance of a pay claim. In July 1973 workers in the maintenance shops had called a strike which had been violently broken up by the GNR. The police had forced the men back into a hangar with submachine guns. The office staff had thrown paper-weights and even adding machines at the cops. Three workers panicked and started to run. The police opened fire and all three were killed. Within the company there were still hundreds of ex-PIDE informers. Two PCP cells had operated at TAP since the late sixties, cells of MES and PRP since 1974.
On May 2, 1974 a plenario had unanimously called for the saneamento of all fascists in the company and in particular of those responsible for having called in the police the year before. The union also made certain demands, including the election of three 'worker' representatives to an Administration Council. The proposed lists were not challenged and three union officials were duly elected in a hall in Lisbon on May 5 (two were, in fact, in middle management). When the workers discovered that two of their 'representatives' had raised their own salaries from 7000 to 52,000 escudos and were being driven around by chauffeurs, they not unnaturally lost confidence in the Administrative Council. Election to the Council was seen as just a sort of personal promotion. The union also came in for a lot of criticism.
On July 21 a plenario of the maintenance men decided to break away from the rest of the workers.They wanted their working week reduced to 40 hours. They again called for saneamento and for the freezing of all salaries above 16,000 escudos. These demands were unacceptable to the Flight Personnel (whose salaries reached up to 52,000 escudos per month). These differences of attitude, flowing from very real differences in material conditions of life, were to be repeatedly used by the government, the unions and the PCP to denounce the struggle of the maintenance men as 'unrepresentative', 'undemocratic' and 'disruptive of unity'. Disruptive they certainly were of the false unity between groups of totally different social composition. On August 13 a plenary of maintenance men decided to take direct action to reduce the working week from 44 to 40 hours. In fact they imposed a 40 hour week by only working 40 hours. The Administrative Council issued a statement threatening sackings and attacking 'those who are struggling for the destruction of the company'. It stressed 'the urgent need to increase productivity' and bemoaned the fact that its appeals were 'systematically being ignored'. 'We continue to see work abandoned under any pretext. Indiscipline reigns and there is a total lack of respect towards authority. The whole thin g leads to anarchy and it is impossible to discover who is guilty or responsible'. The workers retorted that it was 'quite natural for the Administrative Council to seek to increase the time during which surplus value is extracted from us. That's what might be expected from the interests which the Council defends. But that the unions should take the same attitude, by refusing to support us, only shows their reformist role'.
The agitation of TAP began to have wide international repercussions. The banks (both national and international) as well as the Boeing Company refused to deal with the enterprise or to supply it with spare parts other than on a strict cash basis. The Portuguese company was bound up with international capitalism and could not itself supply spare parts for its own aircraft. It was very vulnerable to external pressures of this kind.
On August 19 another plenario, held without union officials, drew up a list of demands which included a) the purging of all those whom the workers themselves judged to have shown anti-working class attitudes such purging to be repeated as often as necessary; b) all wage increases to be inversely proportional to current earnings; c) an enquiry into the responsibilities for the July 1973 shootings and punishment of those guilty; d) equal shareouts, each year, of part of the company's profits; e) the right to reconsider collective contracts, whenever the workers chose.
The management were given a week to consider the proposals. After that the maintenance men would stop work altogether. It is interesting to note how the 'anti- fascist' demand for sanearnento had become a class demand concerning whom the workers would work with.
On August 25 the PCP cell in TAP issued a leaflet warning workers against the 'manoeuvres of radical petty-bourgeois groups'. It wanted discussions and agreement 'amongst all the personnel' showing thereby a typically bourgeois attitude: equal decisional authority for people who were not equal in reality. On the following day a further plenario decided on an unlimited general stnke. A Strike Committee was elected and various commissions immediately appointed. Pickets were posted that same night. The PCP Minister of Labour arrived at the airport at 3 am, with a deputation of trade union and ministerial officials, and asked the Strike Committee to postpone the strike. The Minister is instructed in some basic working class principles: only a plenario can rescind such a decision. He starts making threats: the airport is already encircled by the Army. A further plenario on August 27, held in the presence of the Minister of Labour, votes to continue the strike. As if to make it unequivocally clear who are the 'unrepresentative minorities' the administrative staff decide, by a substantial majority, to join the strike.
Many of the airport workers were particularly sensitive to the demands of the maintenance men. Together they now halted all international flights, other than a flight carrying a delegation of Chilean trade union leaders and planes carrying troops returning from Guine'-Bissau. The maintenance workers, who had initiated the strike, remained absolutely firm.
The dispute was now a direct challenge to the government and the unions. At I am on August 28 the Minister of Information announced that given the 'intransigence' of the strikers, the airport would be militarised. The PCP cell at TAP issued a further communique': the strike was a 'provocation' directed against 'the interests of the Portuguese people in general'. A confrontation with the MFA 'which might threaten their alliance with the working people' had to be avoided at all costs. The 'adventurists' had to be 'unmasked' for a climate of 'security and discipline' to return to the airport. The strikers were even holding up the process of decolonisation ... by slowing down the return of troops from Guin6-Bissau. It was in this atmosphere that the famous plenario of August 28 was held. It was attended by over 4000 workers. The meeting was due to be broadcast live on radio but so flagrant was the anticipated defiance of authority that, at the last moment, the arrangements were cancelled on instructions from the Junta. The plenario brought massive support from all other sections of TAP and offers of solidarity from many workers' groups throughout the country - in total defiance of the new anti-strike law, just passed by the government.
A group of MFA officers then entered the meeting hall, applauded by the workers. 'We are soldiers. You are about to be placed under military discipline. Here are the relevant passages of the military regulations'. The officers start reading. The silence is total. Amid mounting tension the plenario votes for the continuation of the strike. It also votes for the dissolution of the trade union committee. The MFA officers leave. Almost furtively someone presents an unsigned motion suggesting the strike be called off. The Chairman asks the proposer to come and move it. An old PCP militant, torn and ashamed, argues half-heartedly. There is violent opposition. Throughout there is little reference to the MFA. Illusions persist. At 5 pm an important MFA member turns up. He asks to be informed of the decision of the plenario. Hearing it, he threatens: 'You have half an hour to start work again or COPCON will intervene'. For a while there is pandemonium. Then, after a sober analysis of the relation of forces, there is a decision to resume work - but to 'work to rule' and to establish, as a matter of urgency, close contacts with other factories who had offered support. A bitter communique' is issued reporting the suspension of the plenario under threat of military force ('armoured cars outside, parachutists issued with sub-machine guns, munitions, knives, the usual friendly police dogs'). The communique also refers to the workers' decision to revoke the entire trade union committee, and expresses its 'deepest contempt' for the repression they have just been subjected to.
From August 28 on the Army occupies all parts of the airport. The maintenance men pursue their work-to-rule. The Strike Committee, which includes some MES members, is arrested as are many workers who refuse to obey military orders. The other TAP staff, remembering the CTT strike in June and not wishing to risk open confrontation with the Army, return to work under extreme duress. The 'democratic guns' have won out against the 'irresponsible adventurers'.
COPCON remained in occupation of the airport during the next few weeks. The work-to-rule continues under the surveillance of G3-carrying soldiers, who have been forbidden to speak to the workers. The workers are constantly threatened. 'No one leaves the premises unless so many planes have taken off by such and such a time'. Some maintenance men have to stay at work 15 or 16 hours a day. The regime meanwhile boasted that everything was normal at TAP.
On September 17 the unions (supported by the PCP) called a plenario of all TAP staff with a view to 'normalising the situation'. Hundreds of maintenance men turn up, vote the Chairman out and take over the meeting. They decide to add to their other demands the demand that all troops be withdrawn. They also decide that the new trade union commission shall be elected on the basis of direct shop representation, thereby ensuring a genuine workers' majority. The unions vehemently denounce the decision as 'divisive'. On September 23 the Army arrest several workers after having 'questioned' them. A big demonstration takes place outside the barracks where they are being held, and they are eventually released. On September 25, 200 workers are sacked for 'infringements to Article 6 of the Code of Military Discipline'. On the 27th several thousands TAP and other workers down tools and take part in street demonstrations demanding the reinstatement of all the sacked men. The government says 'Yes, all but thirty'. The unions concur. The men refuse and the strike begins to spread. A critique of the role of the MFA is beginning to take shape. A joint demonstration (TAP, Lisnave, Efacec-Inel, CTT) is called for September 28. By a quirk of history these demonstrators, demanding a saneamento of all work places, are the only ones on the streets with such demands when the right attempted their putsch.
Following September 28 the decree militarising the airport was rescinded, and the work to rule called off. The 40 hour week was gradually introduced. Most, but not all, of the sacked workers were reinstated, having been obliged to make individual applications. They were told they would only be reinstated 'on condition they took no further part in political activity'.
Plenarios of TAP workers continued. The demands were for renewed saneamento (the full list of ex-PIDE agents had not been released). A whole series of local issues (relating to cleaners, porters, engineers, etc.) were also discussed. Demands ranged from reduction of the wage differentials to nationalisation of the company under workers' control. In many respects the TAP experience showed both the capacities and limitations of the whole Portuguese revolutionary movement.
Another important dispute at the time was at the Jornal do Comercioo. Its workers went on strike on August 25, 1974, occupying the premises and calling for an end to the 'internal censorship'. They also wanted the saneamento of their director, Carlos Machado. An initially small demonstration outside the building had grown as passers-by joined in. The workers attempted to produce their own version of the paper. Again COPCON troops moved into the building, confiscating copies already produced, and forbidding the printing of any more. On September 4 all the other papers in Lisbon, with the exception of 0 Seculo (where the PCP were in control) decided to stop production for a day, in support of the struggle at Jornal do Come'rcio. The government thanked the 0 Seculo workers for their scabbing 'which helped the interests of the workers as against those who submitted to irresponsible pressures
Incensed, workers from all the other papers gathered in front of the O Seculo premises to stop its distribution. The government sent troops to disperse the demonstrators. The PCP dominated CT at 0 Seculo finally decided that - although they had already printed the issue - it would be wiser not to distribute it ... 'in order to avoid a confrontation between the Armed Forces and the adventurists'. PCP journalists condemned the action of Jorna/ do Comercio, talking of 'strikes which could be used by Reaction and by the big monopolies' and hinting darkly at 'forces that were objectively on the side of the enemies of the workers'. Blissfully unaware of the impression created the same issue of 0 S6culo carried, in the next column, an interview with Antoine Pinay, a reactionary French ex-Prime Minister, who said he was 'appreciative of the climate of tranquillity to be found in Portugal'.
Of greater significance perhaps, because of the numbers involved, was another major confrontation between the government and the working class, that of the workers of the Lisnave shipyards. The Lisnave workers were among the most class conscious in Portugal and their communiqu&s represent one of the high points of autonomous working class struggle. The shipyard workers had decided at one of their plenarios that on September 12 they would march, en masse, to the Ministry of Labour. They wanted the saneamento of their previous director. But their main purpose was to draw attention and initiate opposition to the anti-strike law which h adjust been passed. As far back as July they had pointed out links between various members of their management and certain ex-PIDE agents and had asked the MFA to dismiss the people involved. The request was ignored. In a communique the Lisnave workers condemned the equivocations of the management, the hiding of injustices, and the anti-working class nature of the new legislation. They were particularly incensed by the use of terms like 'economic wreckers' which the PCP constantly used against them whenever they proposed passing from words to action.
The proposed Lisnave demonstration was banned by the MFA. The communique' forbidding the march was repeatedly read over the radio. A tenseness gripped Lisbon as people waited to see what would happen. On September 12 more than 6000 Lisnave workers, in their boiler suits and helmets, marched from the yard in rows 15 abreast, tightly organised and carrying banners; 'The workers of Lisnave want the fascists out'.
'Death to PIDE. Death to fascism. Down with capitalism'. 'The right to strike, yes. Lockout, no 'We support all comrades on strike'. 'Democracy for the workers, repression for the reactionaries 'Long live the working class'.
It was a marvellous Sight - the Lisbon proletariat in working clothes, in a forbidden demonstration, openly handing out their leaflets to the people of the city (Appendix 10). The march was applauded all the way. It was joined by thousands of other workers, in particular Post Office workers. Otelo Saraiva de Carvaiho, commander of COPCON, personally ordered a cordon to be thrown around the Ministry of Labour. 'Either you stop us by killing some of us' one of the workers' committees told him 'or you let us go. Either way we'll continue the march'. Faced with such a display of determination, Otelo didn't dare intervene and the COPCON troops eventually withdrew.
The Lisnave yards had had strikes before April 25th, and the PCP had been active in them. But now the factory cell was issuing communique's denouncin£ 'adventurism'. The demonstration, the PCP claimed 'represents hostility against the government and a disrespect for the democratic order. The consequence will only be to provoke the reaction'. The reaction, as will shortly be shown, needed no provoking.
THE ANTI-STRIKE LAW AND THE RESURGENCE
OF THE RIGHT With the advent of the Second Provisional Government the wave of euphoria began to subside and reality Ito reassert itself. Society was divided into classes and they had mutually antagonistic interests. The employers C sought initially to limit the working class offensive by legal means but when this failed sections of the ruling class showed themselves quite prepared to envisage a return to an authoritarian regime.
The CIP (Confederation of Portuguese industry) was working along two lines. The first, overtly political, consisted in supporting right-wing parties and in arguing for a type of capitalist expansion in which they would participate. This required a limitation of the right to strike. The other was no less political, though less openly so. It implied the financing and support of fascist groups.
Fragments of fascist institutions and mentality certainly persisted. But on the whole the fascists could not act on their own and looked for support to various right-wing parties. Many of the old fascist leaders had become liberals, 'in the spirit of April 25th'. Some, momentarily imprisoned, had already been released. The GNR and PSP retained considerable power. On August 16, 1974 for instance a radical group, the 'Friends of Mozambique', had organised a demonstration in Parque Eduardo VII. They were prohibited from continuing with their meeting (the order being given by one of Spinola's associates). They marched down the Avenida da Liberdade and on to Rossio, in the centre of Lisbon, where they were met by police and asked to disperse. Before this could be done the police opened fire. Four people were wounded and one killed: Vitor Barnardes, a worker and CDE activist..
The shock of the murder, typical of police actions before April 25th, brought home to people some of the stark realities of the new 'democracy'. From the left the condemnation was unanimous. So too was the realisation that fascist-minded forces still existed, very much entrenched in positions of authority. The government refused to disarm them.
At about this time it was also discovered how active the CIA had become. Under the guise of a totally fictitious 'Operation and Transport Company', it seemed to have two main activities in Portugal: photographing activists and having dinner with sundry Air Force officers. There were stories (hundreds of stories and rumours were around) that the remains of the old 'Legion' were organising - indeed had already organised-under the banners of the 'Liberal' and 'Federalist' parties. Another story, reputedly started by the PS and PCP, alleged that the FPL (Front for Freedom in Portugal), an exile group in Paris which provided sound left-wing analyses of the political situation, was made up entirely of ex-PIDE spies. Old habits and fears die hard: it was impossible to say what was true or not. A riot by some 200 PIDE agents in a Lisbon prison on August 12, 1974 helped to clear the situation somewhat. It brought thousands of demonstrators into the streets, denouncing their demands.
The anti-strike law introduced on August 27 was typical of the balance of forces pertaining at the time. It was the culmination of much preparation and its sponsors considered its timing particularly important. Unfortunately this was not to be left in their hands. The law had to be introduced at the height of the TAP dispute, i.e. at the worst possible time. It was to be immediately and very visibly flouted, on a large scale. The law was a highly complex piece of legislation which prohibited both lock-outs and certain types of strike. The preamble declared:
'The Political Constitution of 1933 prohibited strikes and lock-outs. Breaking with this system, the April 25th Movement allowed and recognised trade unions and managerial associations, provided they were in the spirit of the Programme of the MFA'. But it was the small print that mattered. There were 31 articles. Specifically forbidden were: a) strikes among the armed forces, judiciary, firemen, etc. b) political strikes, and strikes in solidarity with unrelated trades and industries (Art. 6). c) strikes leading to the occupation of factories (Art. 7). d) strikes not preceded by a period of 30 days' discussion with the management (Art. 8). e) strikes not voted for by a majority of the labour force involved (Art. 10).
Lock-outs by management were specifically permitted when a strike occurred which did not comply with the above conditions or when the management considered that machinery was at risk. The main thrust of the legislation aimed at preventing solidarity actions and at breaking the wave of occupations which was seriously threatening the employers' right to manage.
Far from condemning such anti-working class legislation the PCP and PS had actually helped to formulate it. All the left groups condemned the new law outright. Cunhal's savage attacks on them at this time shows the extent of his collusion with capital. Indeed the PCP, through Intersindical, had organised a demonstration in Lisbon (on June 1) against the wave of strikes. Avelino Goncalves (PCP Minister of Labour and ex-union leader of the Northern Bank Employees) said that they were 'against adventurism, opportunism and unrealistic demands which caused chaos and a division in the democratic forces'. The main activity of Intersindical at the time had been to go around Lisnave, Mabor, CTT, Setenave, etc., trying to dissuade the workers from going on strike.
It was difficult to know what the PCP meant by 'democratic forces'. There were none in the government, which was a hive of intrigue. Spinola was meeting with members of the 'Liberal Party' and of the 'Democratic Labour Party' in which many ex-PIDEs were organising. (The ex-PIDEs were also planning actions of a more direct kind.) Spinola had succeeded in getting Gaivao de Melo appointed head of the body entrusted with bringing charges against PIDE. He had also got his right-hand man Sanches Os6rio appointed Minister for Social Communications. Firmino Miguel, a firm Spinolist, was Minister of Defence.
The new commanders of the GNR and police were also approved by Spinola. The General and those around him were doing everything in their power to reduce the influence of the MFA. Spinola had asked his close friend, Champalimaud, to draw up a plan for economic reconstruction. Palma Carlos had already spoken of the need of the right-wing parties to unite. This began in September, under Spinola's personal influence.
Some of the fiercest arguments were taking place on the subject of the colonies. MES and the maoist groups were particularly critical here. They never allowed people to forget just exactly who Spinola was. Early in August a Censorship Board had been set up with Spinola's man, Sanches Osdrio, in charge. It had power to levy fines on publications or to suspend them altogether. Two evening papers had been prosecuted for carrying material about the colonies regarded as inopportune. By mid-August the maoist Luta Popular was suspended for 'concrete ideological aggression' against the government. He was released short after, following a joint demonstration of PRP, URML, LUAR, MES, GAPS and the MRPP.
One of the results of the struggles in the colonies and of the proposed decolonisation was a plan to extend the 0area of nationalisation in Portuguese banking. The Banco Nacional Ukramarino was one of the decisive controllers of the Mozambique economy and it was clear that no radical decolonisation could take place while it remained even partially in private hands. The Banco de Portugal and the Banco de Angola had major stakes overseas. The capital in all three banks was totally to be centralised in the hands of the state. Minority foreign capital was to be compensated.
During the summer I travelled through the north of the country on a camping trip. Everywhere I found people discussing the same sort of things: nationalisa-tion, self-management, communism, the class struggle. In a mountain camp site near Leixoes the guard, who had not left the site for five years, questioned me at length about the 25th. In Figueira da Foz a French tourist's trumpet blew out the notes of 'Grandola', only to have them echoed by a trumpet-playing fisherman from a window. A crowd gathered, ecstatic. Workers just outside Porto told stories of local PIDE agents who had not yet been arrested. Initially, they would be suspicious of a foreigner. We'd ritualistically buy one another glasses of wine, and after a couple of rounds they'd begin to say things I'd never dreamt of hearing. 'The problem is capitalism. There are still fascists in the government. There are still PIDE agents living near here'. The North, supposed to be the bastion of reaction, was in fact more polarised than the South.
In an interview given after the events of September 28, Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho (commander of COPCON) revealed that the Major General of the Armed Forces had known about gun-running from Spain and Angola as early as September 8. A week later his services had discovered that a plane had been hired at the Tires aerodrome in the name of the Armed Forces. It was to drop leaflets over Lisbon, announcing a demonstration to be held on September 28 in favour of General Spinola.
Spinola's speech of September 10 (Appendix 11), in which he had spoken of a 'silent majority who had to awaken and defend themselves from extremist totalitarianism:, had been planned as the starting point of a campaign which would lead to a new coup. The movement was backed by various elements in the business world and in the Armed Forces and by certain shadowy groupings of the extreme right. A few days after the speech a large poster began to appear in the streets of Lisbon. It called for a demonstration to reaffirm support for General Spinola. 'No to extremism. Yes to firmness and loyalty to the programme of the MFA'. On September 19 a plane duly showered leaflets over Lisbon and Coimbra.
A week earlier the Liberal Party, the Party of Progress, CDS, PDC, PPD and several other smaller groups had all applauded Spinola's speech. The PPD (Diano do Lishoa, September 13) said that 'his words constituted solemn advice and a grave warning for Portugal'. The Christian Democrats extolled his 'lucid considerations'. The Liberal Party stressed that lack of confidence in the economy was at the root of the crisis, and bemoaned the fact that the anti-strike law had been broken - 'defiant; and openly'.
The PCP an left groups warned that a massive operation was being planned against the working class. The first real evidence came when it was discovered that a massive bulk purchase of tickets had been made for the bull-fight that night. The tickets had been paid for by Champalimaud and de Melo and distributed free ... to those they'd persuaded that the country was heading for economic ruin.
The Praca de Touros is not a place frequented by working people. The cheapest tickets cost 30 escudos and prices rise steeply for the boxes. Workers see the bull-fights on television. When Vasco Gonqalves, the Prime Minister, entered the ring the crowd cheered, thinking it was Spinola. When they discovered it wasn't, the cheering stopped. Later, Vasco was actually booed. At the end of the evening the crowd applauded a bullfighter (the son of a Count who had been imprisoned for selling arms to Biafra) as he rode around the ring holding high a poster advertising the proposed demonstration.
Left-wing groups massed outside the Praca. MES, PRP-BR and the Maoists handed out leaflets saying that the 'silent majority' demonstration was a signal for a coup. The GNR arrived and, using their horses, pushed them back. The Communist Party issued a statement warning the government of 'reactionary forces'. The MDP and PS also issued statements condemning the proposed demonstration. The PRP-BR had already asked some important questions: 'When Marcelo and Tomas can go to Brazil, when Casal Ribeiro, Moreira Baptista and Silva Cunha (the exdeaders of ANP) are freed, when reactionaries are protected, when workers in struggle are suppressed, when wages are fixed at starvation level and prices allowed to rise, who benefits: the workers or the reaction?'
Fighting broke out as the Spinolists left the bullring. Poles and fists were used as hundreds rushed in. This was the first mass violence between civilians since the onset of the revolution. It became particularly vicious when the second wave of Spinolists attempted to leave the ring.
On the next day, a Friday, demands grew louder that the demonstration be banned. The MDP issued a call for vigilante groups to block all roads into Lisbon. They issued pictures showing the ' silent majority' poster for what it was, an only feebly disguised clarion call to a fascist rally. Student organisations, Maoists, MES, all denounced the proposed demonstration. Members of PRP-BR pasted up handbills in the main stations of Porto calling on coach drivers not to take paid demonstrators to Lisbon. Most of the drivers agreed not to. Only Galvao de Melo, a general who had recently compared April 25th to the Brazilian right-wing coup of 1964 spoke on behalf of the government, publicly supporting the rally.
Everyone waited for the march to be banned. But the expected announcement never came. Instead Major Sanches Osdrio, a staunch Spinolist, spoke for the MFA. He said the demonstration would take place. At about 7 pm troops started to move towards the radio stations. Several battalions of GNR were seen heading for Monsanto. People began to assemble at various points near the main entrances to the city. Spontaneously, barricades were erected. Large red banners appeared with the slogan 'Stop the Reaction'. Radio Renascenqa reported all this, encouraging thousands more to mass in the streets.
At 9 pm the national radio went blank, followed some time later by Radio Clube Portugues and the TV. We later learned that they had been taken over by the GNR. Emissora Nacional was the only station to continue functioning but only sporadically. Rumours and information spread like wildfire over what had been known (during the fascist days) as the 'Arabic telephone'.
PCP officials appeared on the barricades with red armbands. So did PS members. Leaflets were handed out calling for vigilance. People were saying that both Otelo and Goncalves were being held at Belem.
In a later interview Otelo said that Spinola had denounced him as responsible for the barricades. 'The rumour that I had been arrested caused "loyal" MFA units to head towards Belem to rescue me. On the telephone I asked them not to be alarmed. They didn't believe me'. Other stories had it that the extreme right-wing generals Luis sa Cunha and Kaulza de Arriaga were organising a coup. Confusion was rampant. Civil war seemed on the cards.
Workers outside Lisbon took out what arms they had in store and set up barricades on the roads into the city. Anyone heading in the direction of the capital was searched. At the Tagus bridge a Mercedes was fired on by troops for failing to stop. To the north a hearse with a coffin full of guns was discovered. Two lorries were stopped at Vila Franca de Xira and found to contain arms and explosives.
The night was cold but no one left the barricades. Friends brought coffee and bagaco for the vigilantes. Troops were everywhere on the move. No one knew where they were going, though it turned out that many were arresting known supporters of the proposed demonstration. Hotels like the Hilton were searched and right-wingers rounded up and taken to Caxias. At 3 am Major Osorio read a communique, again permitting the demonstration. He asked that the barricades be taken down. Meanwhile other troops were moving to the barricades, helping civilians to maintain them.
At 8.40 am on Saturday, September 28, Emissora Nacional came on the air again, this time to the strains of 'Grandola, Vila Morena', the tune that had signalled the April 25th uprising.
'We have just witnessed a whole series of activities by reactionary forces. These forces have not understood the historical necessity of April 25th. They have sought to create panic amongst the people by trafficking in arms and by economic sabotage ... To ensure that the road to a new society is safeguarded a few dozen people were detained in the early hours of this morning'.
Thousands immediately thronged into the streets and further reinforced the barricades. All morning they waited. At 1 pm a communique banning the demonstration was read by Spinola himself:
'Given the changed circumstances witnessed this morning, and for the sake of avoiding possible confrontations, His Excellency the President does not deem it advisable to proceed with the announced demonstration in Praca do Imperio'.
Another communique', read several times, asked the people to have confidence in the forces of COPCON, to help the MFA and to withdraw their pickets 'because the situation no longer justified them'. Troops moved into the strategic areas. The crowds, still friendly, discussed the situation with them, in small groups. Traffic began to flow again. There was a deep awareness that the right had suffered a decisive setback.
By 2 pm thousands of workers massed in Belem for a counter-demonstration called by several Workers' Committees and by Intersindical. It turned into a vast 'victory' parade. At 3 pm the left demonstrated in the nearby working class suburb of Mcantara. 40,000 people turned up and marched through the streets, shouting the slogans of the previous night. The joy was more political than on May Day. People shouted more fiercely, and with more determination and conviction. This second demonstration was mainly sponsored by MES, though all the revolutionary' groups (with the exception of the MRPP) supported it. All along the route people showed solidarity by raising their fists or by applauding from their balconies.
Sunday was quiet. People tried to figure out the full implications of what had happened, while waiting for further broadcasts. That night Vasco Goncalves spoke to the nation (Appendix 12).
There had been no papers on the Saturday and Sunday and both the radio and TV had been silent for long periods. Leaflets took over and wall sheets appeared everywhere. The MDP-CDE sheet claimed that weapons had been found in the Sheraton Hotel. During the crisis the role of these unofficial channels of communication had been tremendous. Little pieces of information seeped through in each leaflet, preventing chaos and fear.
That night a full list of those arrested was read out over the radio They included all the better-known and most active fascists of the old regime, as well as the two biggest capitalists in the country: Espirito Santo and Champalimaud. Warnings were issued that further arrests were imminent.
On the Monday workers returned to the factories, not to work but to discuss the events of the weekend. The first national papers appeared. News was now pouring in from all over the country. A plot to assassinate Vasco Goncalves had been unearthed: a rifle with a long-range telescope had been found in a house opposite his residence. The offices of the Partido do Progresso had been searched and an arsenal found, including sub-machine guns. The premises of the Liberal Party had been stormed and although the police had intervened the windows had been shattered by PS and MDP militants.
Later that day (September 30, 1974) a haggard-looking Spinola appeared on TV and spoke 'to the nation . He was resigning as President, he said. He could 'no longer face the climate of anarchy where everyone own laws and where it was impossible to create an authentic democracy for peace and progress'. People laughed as he finished. Victory was being consolidated. The possibility of working class revolution seemed just a little nearer.
General Costa Gomes was named as the new President. He had impeccable conservative credentials: one-time Commander of the GNR, ex-commander of the armed forces in Mozambique (in 1961), General Chief of Staff since 1972. With just a tinge of 'anti-fascism': in March 1974 he had been dismissed by Caetano for failing to give the oath of allegiance.
The political parties all issued statements on the events. The PCP called for continued vigilance by the people and armed forces. Both the PS and PPD applauded the MEA and called for 'an acceleration in the democratic process'. The PS urged support for the voluntary day of work fixed for October 6. A MES statement claimed that 'the last five months had shown that it was not possible for the MFA to stand aside and allow the bourgeois forces to strangle the workers. Recent struggles by the working class vanguard (the workers of TAP, of Lisnave, and all those who since April 25th had been repressed and lied to) showed clearly that the working class support for the MFA must go hand in hand with support by the MFA for the working class'.
LUAR, in a communique,spoke of the dismissal of Spinola. 'Spinola resigned' it said, 'because he wanted to be the sole interpreter of the programme of the MFA and because of his support for the interests of an expansionist capitalism and international high finance. He wanted to use the programme (of the MFA) to suppress the legitimate interests of the working classes and the majority of the Portuguese people'.No comments were made on the fact that the 'programme' was so ambiguous that it could, legitimately, be used for such a purpose!
A large demonstration was called by the PCP and Intersindical for the Monday night outside the presidential palace at Belem. Everyone was now noticing how all the major PCP demonstrations were being called outside the seat of government, whereas other groups were demonstrating either in working class districts like Alcantara, or in the centre of the city. The demonstration was nevertheless a very joyful one. Thousands of non-party members turned up. 'Vit6ria! Vitdria!' the PCP shouted. But other working class slogans appeared, perhaps more sincere and more proletarian: Soldado amigo, 0 povo esta contigo' (Soldier, friend, the people are with you), or - again - 'We came of our own free will, nobody paid us'.
The following Sunday was October 6, the day after the anniversary of the proclamation of the First Republic. Despite the large working class forces which had rallied to its side the government was still talking of the 'national interest', a totally mystifying concept. That night there was a gathering outside the Hilton Hotel. Galvao de Melo had gone there to have dinner with certain elements reputed to be CIA agents. Some three thousand people congregated outside, waiting. COPCON forces arrived, but did not intervene. Civilians stood in groups discussing the situation. Finally Galvao de Melo came out, without a carnation. The crowd surged forward shouting 'Death to the CIA', 'Death to Fascism'. The general escaped, but only just, in a government Mercedes.
THE THIRD PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT
Shortly after September 28 a new administration was set up. It was to last until the next right-wing coup, in March 1975.
The composition of the Third Government differed little from its predecessors. Three members of the Junta were dismissed along with Spfnola. Six members of the previous government lost their positions. Five new military appointments were made and the jobs of Minister of Social Communications was taken over by Vasco Goncalves himself. Colonel Pinho Freire and Lieutenant-Colonel Mendes Dias, both professional military men, took over the Air Force, replacing Diogo Nero. Vitor Crespo and Rosa Coutinho took over from Silvino Ribeiro and Firmino Miguel as chiefs of the Navy. Galvao de Melo was, at last, dismissed. No startling new legislation was announced. The preparation of evidence against the ex-PIDEs was temporarily taken over by COPCON and the dismantling of some of the fascist organisations (such as the Legion) completed. The process of decolonisation was accelerated.
These changes represented a victory for the Coordinating Committee of the MFA. Spinola's insistence on a 'Spinolist' reading of the programme had been promoted by his direct connections with high finance (in the persons of de Melo and Champalimaud). It became known that Spinola had attempted to put a halt to the process of decolonisation in Angola through a deal 'between the leader of the FNLA, the president of Zambia (who was the latter's step-brother) and the Americans (who had wanted to protect their substantial interests in Cabinda). Spinola had also supported the rebellious PIDEs in Mozambique in early September.
Following Spinola's flight the MFA restructured itself. At the apex of the giant pyramid was the Supreme Council of the Movement, known as the Council of 20. It comprised the President, the 6 remaining members of the Junta, the 5 military ministers (the Prime Minister, two Ministers without Portfolio, and the Ministers of the Interior and of Labour), the commander of COPCON and 7 members from the Coordinating Committee of the MEA. The MEA Assembly comprised 200 officers drawn from the three branches of the armed forces (115 were from the Army). The General Assembly was based on various Councils in the three branches of the Services, in turn related to various regional councils and assemblies.
The MFA were now represented at all levels of government and civil administration. But its politics were no longer unanimous. A certain polarisation was beginning to take place. Their fortnightly Boletim spoke loudly of 'democracy', 'decolonisation and 'dynamisation' but gave no clue as to what they meant by it.
Vasco Goncalves appealed for a day's work on Sunday, October 6. His aim was to show that the MFA still enjoyed the support of a large section of the Portuguese people, and that Spinola's talk of 'anarchy was unfounded. Tens of thousands of workers turned up for work. Others spent the day cleaning the streets and walls of Lisbon. The walls of the capital, over the five months since April, had accumulated so many slogans and graffiti that it was difficult to find space for more. People wrote new slogans often had to encircle them if they wanted passers-by to notice. Students went to the shanty towns to help families there; others went to hospitals. Certain groups were critical. The workers of Efacec asked: 'We live in a capitalist society, where the largest slice of the riches produced goes into the pockets of the bosses. In our case, any extra wealth created will go abroad, only increasing the bank accounts of our employers and allowing them one more trip to Bermuda or yet another car. Because there are more important things to do than work for the boss we propose that each section turns up and decides for itself what to do on Sunday'.
CTT and other workers likewise proclaimed their right to decide where the extra work should be done. The whole question of 'the good of the state' and of 'the authorities knowing best was being challenged by these actions. The class nature of the new state had already been exposed - and quite clearly - by the workers of Lisknave, TAP, Efacec, Timex, Sogantal, Charneca, CTT and many others. Despite the sycophantic position of the PCP (in relation to both MFA and government) large sections of the working class were moving towards a revolutionary critique of Portuguese society. The communique' from Lisnave on October 10 (Appendix 13) speaks for itself.
International firms began to show renewed concern for their interests in Portugal. A company without books, trading under the name Cindustra,was discovered in Madeira. One of its offices was aboard the yacht 'Apollo' moored just off the island. The twelve Americans who lived on the yacht were seen photograph-ing demonstrators. An enquiry showed that Cindusta was a subsidiary of 'Operation and Transport Company' previously shown to have been a CIA front. The CDE of Madeira, supported by all PS, UPM (Popular Unity in madeira)FPDM(Front for Democracy in Madeira) - called a demonstration against their presence. A fight between demonstrators and members of the crew sent the latter scurrying off to unknown waters.
During the following weeks TAP workers, dismissed for their action in August, began to be reinstated. TAP had been re-occupied by the military on September 28 and continued to be occupied for two weeks afterwards, when the PSP police took over. The TAP workers had to write individually to the management and beg for their jobs back, a humiliation still insisted upon by the military leadership. Given the victory of September 28, many gladly returned. The struggle could continue. The workers of Jorna/ do Comercio likewise returned to work: their director was now in prison ... for having been associated, on the wrong side, with the events of September 28.
In the wake of the 'September days' many left groups began getting a say in the papers again. Between July and September these groups had only received marginal coverage. In a sense the groups themselves were marginal. Events organised by working class forces within the factories (and by bourgeois forces outside them) were more important.