Portugal - The Impossible Revolution? -- Phil Mailer
VII. THE POLITICAL CHESSBOARD
The MFA was the real locus of decision-making during the period before the first elections (April 1975), a period which they themselves were to design as 'pre-democratic'. But neither the armed forces as a whole nor the MFA were homogeneous bodies. They represented various ideological and class positions. This however was only to become obvious to all at a much later stage.
The political parties followed more clearly divergent ends and soon appeared to monopolise the struggle for power. It was these civilian groups who were to fight the elections (or to fight against them) and who were to articulate various alternative patterns of social reconstruction.
In July 1974 there were between 70 and 80 political parties. After September 28 certain right-wing groups ceased to exist or fused with others. With Tomas and Caetano gone, the old right was in havoc. Latent divergences within the Caetano camp came to a head. The old ANP had never been a cohesive body. Its former deputies now landed in many parties. By far the most powerful and active was the CDS, founded by Freitas do Amaral, ex-adviser to Caetano and professor of law at Lisbon University. Other founding members included Pintado, Brandao and Machado, all former deputies who had represented the mainstream of the old conservatism. The CDS was supported by the catholic Opus Dei and by certain priests, especially in the North. Backed by the CUF trust and the de Melo family the CDS used all available modern techniques of political 'marketing': slick posters, advertising, films and videos. They published their programme in Didno de Noticias on November 25, taking up two whole pages. They advocated state 'support' for hospitals, education, etc. Their strategy was to begin in the provinces, where there was less political sophistication, and work towards holding a conference in Lisbon. Regional CDS publications spoke of 'the communist takeover in Lisbon' and of 'our overseas territories, overrun by red terrorists'
The PDC (Christian Democratic Party) was also an off-shoot of the former regime. Perhaps the real representative of the old fascist movement, it stood to the right even of the CDS. Salazar himself had founded it after the coup of 1926. Many of its supporters had been - and still were - members of the Portuguese Confederation of Industry (CIP). The party claimed 37,000 members in the North (in December 1974) though these figures are probably sheer fantasy. It supported a presidential system, with Spinola as President, and used the right-wing symbol of the Gaelic Cross (which had been used by t e Crusaders). The PDC had extremely active graffiti writers: the walls of Lisbon were plastered with its initials. It openly espoused the Catholic Church as an ally. In many ways the PDC represented the purer forms of Salazarist ideology.
Other groupsucules of the extreme right were poorly organised but not totally irrelevant. They were splinters of the former repressive apparatus of the state. Small groups of ex-Legion members, of ex-PIDEs and of small businessmen could still muster enough wealth (and weaponry) to constitute a source of trouble. The Liberal Party ('Communism is worse than Fascism'), the Party of Progress (ex-Federalist Party) and the Popular Portuguese Movement had all been active enough to be implicated in the September 28 disaster. They lay discredited behind their respective arsenals. Behind April 25th, in their eyes, was the incompetence of Caetano whom they denounced as a 'liberal' and blamed for the multi-racialism that existed in the colonies. Other groups, like the Independent Social-Democratic Party (PSDI), represented the middle-business world. Led by ex-Prime Minister Palma Carlos it too had attempted to 'halt the left-wing tide'. But these groups could not agree among themselves (except on September 28) and remained weak.
The youth section of the CDS attempted to meet on November 4, 1974 in a Lisbon theatre, just down the road from the old PIDE headquarters. The MRPP demon-strated outside the theatre, shouting 'The PIDE killed in this street' and 'Against fascism, popular unity'. They linked arms across the narrow road, confronting the riot police who had arrived. The police opened fire, using tear gas. The Maoists replied with stones, whereupon the police shot into the crowd killing one and wounding sixteen. Among the wounded was Saldanha Sanches, director of the MRPP newspaper Luta Popular, who had been released from prison after September 28 as a result of left-wing pressure. At 9 pm incensed demonstrators marched off to the CDS headquarters, broke down the main door and destroyed all the documents and files, helping themselves to duplicating machines and other equipment. The CDS claimed that they had sought the aid of COPCON but that no response had been forthcoming. When COPCON arrived they were cheered by the crowd. No arrests were made. The whole episode showed a considerable ambiguity over tactics - on both sides. MES called the action 'exhibitionist' and called for 'struggles against concrete forms of capitalism and exploitation.
During the first six months all political groups were treated equally by the predominantly left-wing press. A manifesto from PRP would get as much space as one from the PPD or PS. The 'revolutionary' left called demonstrations and in man y ways controlled the streets, whereas the centre parties (PPD, PS and PCP) controlled the government. The first PS congress, on December 13, 1974, was showered with fraternal greetings from all the parties of the Second International. Their guest of honour had been Santiago Carillo who spoke on behalf of the Spanish Communist Party. This easy 'internationalism' gave the PS a certain political muscle. But their congress also revealed the frail structure on which the party was built. Internal squabbles threatened to wreck the whole edifice on important issues such as the relationship of the party to the Church, or to the left-wing groups. Mario Soares had always been a member of the Lisbon upper crust. His family owned the Cole'gio Moderno, an exclusive private school where many of the current professional politicians had received their education. In gesture and speech he showed all the attributes of the middle class. He was an opportunist par excellence, always in touch with the base of the party, and a master at riding storms. GAPS (a ginger group within the PS) contained members of Soares' own family. This tendency had supported the Maoists on certain demonstrations. Many CDE supporters had flocked to the PS after April 25th and were to the left of the leadership. In fact, soon after the first congress, a major split occurred in the PS, which took 3000 members out of the party. The new group (the FSP or Popular Socialist Front) said that what was at stake was not merely a question of leadership or personalities, it was the class struggle'. Led by Manuel Serra, it called for solidarity wit MES and LUAR. Outlining a programme in eleven points it attacked 'a cult of persona ity which defended, with nice marxist phrases, the interests of the ruling class'. Like most other groups the FSP defended the 'Alliance of the MEA with the people'.
Soares was the darling of international social-democracy. His party received financial help from all the major parties of the Second International, and especially from the British Labour Party and French Socialist Party. Edward Kennedy sent friendly telegrams and in February 1975 actually attended a round table discussion with the PS leaders.
The difference between the PC? and PS positions on the question of trade union organisation reflected the differences in the type of future each envisaged. The PCP saw the future in terms of state capitalism whereas the PS defended the 'mixed economy'. This difference was the main source of the PS's popularity among international capitalists. The PS was less sycophantic than the PC? and more attuned to the general mood. They could denounce the persecution of the Maoists (though in a back-handed way: 'such groups are unimportant'). PS militants never indulged in the sort of deliberate anti-strike campaigns spearheaded by the PCP. The PS had supported the CTT strike in July, while the PCP had violently denounced it. They appeared liberal compared to the ultra-conservative 'communists'.
But the PS call for 'pluralistic democracy' was merely a call for liberal capitalism. Support was measured in those days by the ability to mobilise mass demonstrations. By these standards the PS was not as deeply rooted as the PC?, whatever may have been revealed later during the elections. By the same yardstick the PPD was also weak, its support being among the middle classes who, on the whole won't gladly take to the streets. During the first few months after April 25th the bourgeoisie and middle classes had no independent political voice whatsoever, other than through these parties.
The PCP was of course the most talked about and the most hierarchically and rigidly organised of all the parties. Bourgeois propaganda still depicted it as revolutionary, and it was internationally attacked because of this.. Many of the actions and attitudes of the revolutionary left were attributed to the PC? which, of course, could not have been further from the truth. In many respects the PCP was the most conservative of all the centre parties, attacking every independent move made by any of the other political groups, by women, by workers in the factories, by peasants on the land or by students in their universities.
The student movement reflected these party rivalries. On November 22, 1974 as on many other occasions, COPCON had to be called to the Instituto Superior de Economia when MRPP and UEC students clashed, wrecking the canteen. Such clashes occurred in many of the liceus (secondary schools) as well.
One night militants from URML were handing out leaflets when they were stopped and asked who they were. They replied that they were communists, but not from the PCP. 'If you are not from the PCP, then you're agitators and fascists' was the reply. They were arrested as fascists, and actually taken to Caxias prison. They spent two nights there, alongside ex-PIDEs, until the 'error' was discovered. This incident is only unusual because of what it led to. There were many such fights and brawls between rival groups.
MI the centre parties received wide financial support from abroad. The PCP received money and printing machines from the German Democratic Republic. None of the parties were under any obligation to reveal what they had received from external sources, despite repeated calls to this effect. Moreover since those receiving most such support were precisely the three parties making up the coalition, no legislation on this score was to be expected.
The PPD and PCp were the most homogeneous of the coalition partners. They had clearly defined programmes (for private and state capitalism respectively). The PS, on the other hand, was made up of all sorts of trends and contained more internal divergences than the other two parties put together. Maoist groups, from about January 3975, began to support the PS against the PCp, for instance over such issues as Intersindical.
The coalition was due more to imposed necessity than to any willing cooperation. In fact it always threatened to break up, although none of its component parties could safely have resigned, yet itself remained strong. Over issues like Intersindical and the Parish Juntas fierce squabbling persisted. If they were to get anywhere the PCP needed to remain close to the MFA. But they also needed to eliminate their political rivals, or at least (and for the time being) to keep one step ahead of them.
A week after the smashing of the CDS congress in Porto the PS had called for a demonstration in Lisbon to commemorate the abortive Porto uprising of 1895 by Republican forces. This demonstration might have proved very popular.
The PCP and its satellites reacted strongly. They spoke of a 'new conspiracy' from the right and called for the 'reinforcement oF democratic unity. They proposed their own demonstration, also for January 31, 1975. The MDP-CDE, MES and FSP of course supported the PCp. 'A new silent majority is arising' claimed MES. FSP warned that 'bourgeois organisations in the service of capitalism were spreading propaganda to the effect that the democratic rights conquered on April 25th were in danger. What exists is very different. There are conservative and reactionary forces who fear the advance of the democratic process and are trying to stop it, just as they tried to on September 28. The conspiracy of the bourgeoisie is being promoted by those who, on the 28th, affirmed (with little conviction) that they supported the programme of the MFA. We call for a large mobilisation on January 31, at 7.30 p m at Entrecampos, to support the MFA and to smash the provocateurs and conspirators.
Communique's from MDP and MES, read over the radio, were in much the same vein. A confrontation between the PS and the PCP seemed unavoidable. If the Socialists backed down they would be politically disgraced. They stuck to their guns, attacking the PCP for not being democratic, and asserted that they would carry on with their planned demonstration. On January 30 the MRPP, not to be left out, called for a third demonstration in yet another part of Lisbon.
Mario Soares appeared on television. He said that as far as his party was concerned 'the demonstrations called by the PCP and others were counter-demonstrations'. He also asked people 'to fight for the elections and against the reaction'. Cunhal refused to take part in a televised discussion of these matters.
Tension mounted, fed by plenty of rumours but few facts. 'NATO ships had been spotted off the northern coast of Portugal'. The 'news' seemed to give credence to the idea of some right-wing attempt on Portugal. It was even rumoured that Soares had asked for international aid.
After last minute meetings between Soares and Cunhal both demonstrations were eventually called off. The FSP and MDP duly endorsed the decision. Only MES decided to carry on. The MRPP said that nothing would stop their demonstration. MES said they would have a short meeting, no more. COPCON circled the Rossio where the MRPP demonstration was to be held. Half a dozen Maoists were arrested. The crisis had been postponed, not resolved.
The left groups as a whole should have benefited most from the political vacuum left in the wake of April 25th. But, fossilised in their orthodoxies, they had no internal dynamic which might have led to revolutionary forces gathering around them. Their constant claims to be vanguards (and the discussions round this theme) isolated them time and time again. No self-respecting worker was going to allow himself to be led by a bunch of student radicals, for by and large that is what the groups were. Even when they attracted workers they never managed to rid themselves of their leadership complexes: the workers remained the mass whose function it was to confirm the correctness of duly worked out revolutionary theories. No amount of magic formulas about 'the emancipation of the workers being the task of the workers themselves' could get round this.
The array of initials of the various groups was staggering. A glance at a paper at thk time would have confronted one with an embarrassment of richesses, with a proliferation of 'workers' organisations' to choose from. The Maoists alone provided CARP, CCRML, OCMLP, PC de P (2 factions), FEC ml, URML, MRPP, etc, etc. For the aficionado of political esoterica the study of their ins and outs might be an interesting, if formidable, task. For someone who already had a headache - after 8 or 9 hours at work - it was really asking a lot!
A maoist section had broken away from the PCP in 1964 and formed the FAP (Portuguese Armed Front). A whole series of divergences over tactics had followed, leading to more and more splits. The PCP believed that the break would come within the armed forces (in which they were to be proved correct) and concentrated their action there. Their armed section, known as ARA, although inactive since the fifties was nevertheless kept in nominal existence right up to April 25th. Other groups launched frontal attacks against the regime and its institutions. In 1969 the maoist PC de P was formed. Other splits followed, embracing guevarist and maoist ideas.
On November 22, 1974 the Maoist MRPP announced its intention of becoming a political party and entering the elections. An interview in Expresso on that day attacked the existing government. 'The reaction is also within the government it said. 'The government has two tactics: with a smile and democratic pretences they try to fool the people - but when this is no longer possible they use repression and violence. As soon as the counter-revolution, organised and led by the government, is sufficiently strong they will allow it to win'. The MRPP differentiated itself from most of the other left wing groups in seeing the events that led up to April 25th as essentially an attempt by the ruling class to modernise itself. They decided frontally to attack the new regime. They had smashed bank windows on April 25th, had openly attacked the police during the Peralta demonstration on May 25 and led the violent offensive against the CDS youth congress in December.
Most of the other left groups held different views on April 25th and sought to 'ally themselves to the progressive wing of the MFA' believing that this immoral embrace would bear political fruit. The PRP-BR for instance, which had been born of splits in the PCP in 1970, decided to organise within the general movement after April 25th. Unlike the MRPP who wanted to create their 'true', 'real', 'leninist party of the working class', the PRP-BR oscillated ideologically between the idea of an autonomous movement of the workers and the need for a traditional Bolshevik type party. Combating the fascist and reformist unions they sought to set up 'revolutionary unions in the factories.
Another group who attempted to integrate themselves into the 'general movement' was MES, the Movement of the Socialist Left. MES had arisen from a split in the PCP and CDE in 1973. It embraced many intellectuals and technicians and it had militants (or ex-militants) in the Second Provisional Government. In many respects MES was more open and honest than other left groups. It regarded itself as a 'movement' rather than a party and claimed that 'the conditions for forming a party were not yet right'. In an interview with Lucio Magri (member of a breakaway group from the Italian Comniunist Party) MES spoke of the difficulties of organisation: 'The PCP was the only party to emerge from an underground existence with a strong organisation. It is the only party able to mobilise the masses. However the PCp is far from being a vanguard in the Portuguese revolution. What worries us is that the revolutionary vanguards are tiny minorities, "groupuscules", while all proclaiming that the same time the need to create a mass party' .
Here, in essence, was the problem, though posed in ideological terms. Would all the vanguards become mass parties? Or would there be a falling-out of prophets. MES sensed the difficulty first and launched the slogan of 'popular power' in January 1975. But 'popular power' was for MES merely a different route to the same goal: a mass party which they would control.
PRP-BR at first held that 'revolutionary unions' would be the base of the party. After fumbling for a while in this particular cul de sac they were eventually to launch their 'revolutionary councils'. But for the time being they were concentrating on building unions.
Thus for both MES and the PRP the problem was that of working class or organisation. While both advocated 'I 'self-organisation',they both saw themselves as the hub of that 'self -organisation'. They were blissfully aware of any contradiction in this.
LUAR, in existence since 1967 as a direct action group, was different. LUAR militants saw themselves as an army of militants who would help the workers whenever called. Concentrating on local issues they became a 'service group' for occupations of houses or other buildings. They rarely, if ever, sought to manipulate struggles. Both the charisma of Palma Inacio and this type of activity made LUAR popular with the workers.
Politically LUAR comprised tendencies from Luxemburgist to council communism. Their man slogan was 'socialism from below'. While MES saw the nationalisation of the key industries as the road to socialism (adding that it s ould be carried out 'under workers'control') LUAR criticised this position:
'Nationalisation of the key sectors of the economy is not enough. It is impossible to decree socialism, and then force people to submit to control and decisions by the state. Above all there must be no demobilisation of the autonomous activity of the base, under the pretext that is demanded by "responsible representatives" of the working class The only guarantee for the workers is if power is exercised by the workers themselves, where they live and work. If socialism is not to be a kind of rationalisation, which subordinates and uses the workers with a view to increasing productivity; if socialism is, on the contrary, the subordination of the work process to the interests of those who perform it and their emancipation from capitalist domination, then socialism cannot mean a government for the workers led by a party, group, class or Vi caste. It must mean government by the workers, for the workers ... Support for the MFA should therefore be conditional, support for its progressive measures which, paradoxically, lead to a diminution of state power as a power above the workers, allowing them to create the embryos of alternative forms of social organisation.
It will be seen that even those whose vision of socialism was most libertarian still had many residual illusions about the role of the MFA and of the state, while those who had few such illusions (such as the MRPP) had a vision of socialism which made of it a night-mare and alienated all potential support. The MRPP understood power and wanted it for themselves. If they were the wave of the future, no wonder people were seeking dry land.
MES, PRP, MRPP and the smaller maoist groups were all active in the factories, usually entering struggles after they had started and seeking to 'help' them. In most cases they played a negative role, creating divisions and bringing with them problems which had not been there before.
It was of course impossible for all these vanguard groups to get along with one another since they often clashed in the competition for proletarian clientele. After a while few new people joined such groups. When one party won militants it meant that another had lost them and this probably explained why the various groups attacked on another more fiercely than they ever attacked the right.
When MES had called for 'nationalisation of the banks and insurance companies under workers' control' in their Congress in early 1975 they were attacked as follows by PRP-BR:
'MES held a congress behind locked doors. Intellectuals in the service of the workers, let us look at their practice. Before April 25th MES was engaged in semi-legal activities. It was April 25th which created the conditions for MES to grow. A legal party, it was through legal processes that it grew. "Every government needs an opposition" Lenin once said, and this is precisely the role of MES. As an opposition it is "well behaved", "stable" and "just". They are outside the coalition and therefore call for the "dictatorship of the proletariat". But tomorrow they could very well walk the corridors of power. This can be seen in the invitation extended to the PCP to attend their congress. MES, so hard, so anti-reformist, claim that the PCP is not reformist because it is implanted within the working class. By that logic they should ally themselves with the British Labour Party...'
Occasionally there were alliances too, over specific issues and because the groups were too weak to continue squabbling. Despite their individual peculiarities the groups shared - at an almost instinctive level - Lenin's contemptuous and deeply bourgeois belief that the masses left to themselves could only develop a trade union consciousness In this the groups were leninist in the deepest sense of the word. For all their talk of socialism, their aim was to set up state capitalism in Portugal ,with themselves in the seats of power.They differed from the PCP only in that they were weaker, and verbally more radical.
All the left groups had access to the press though the non-maoist groups were given more space. Their communique's and programmes were published and received wide publicity insofar as the papers themselves were distributed (this was much more common in the South than in the North). Within the newspapers themselves (i.e. as journalists, etc.) they had a firm implantation.
The anarcho-syndicalist CGT had been important in the 1930's. But despite the renewed publication of A Batalha, its 1975 descendants were hardly known at all. A handful of older militants were left. Unable to discard - or even to question - their traditionalist outlook and unwilling to confront new problems they remained trapped in their reminiscences and in their romantic, backward looking ideology. A Bataiha had at one time been the Portuguese political paper with the widest sale; it was now reduced to producing 10,000 copies twice a month. The maoist groups formed in the early 70's could do as well. It was sad, really.
While the parties of the centre were making propaganda for 'democracy' and 'against fascism' the CDS continued to be attacked by the left as a 'reorganised fascist party'. The first major CDS congress, on January 25,1975, had to be abandoned altogether.
Delegates had been assembling from early morning in the Crystal Palace Hall, in Porto. By noon the gathering had broken up into working groups to discuss specific issues. At 3 pm they held a press conference saying that the CDS had opened the door to a non-communist and genuinely democratic Europe. The large banner behind the Central Committee read 'For Progress in a more Prosperous Society'. Mr Geoffrey Rippon, the British (Conservative) Shadow Foreign Secretary spoke of the friendship between both parties. In the same vein the Vice-President of the German Federal Republic claimed that the congress represented 'the hopes of free Europe'.
Elsewhere in the city the forces of the left were gathering. Under the aegis of an umbrella organisation (GAAF) members of LUAR, PRP-BR, LCI, MES and JS (Young Socialists) had called a demonstration for that evening. Shouting 'Against Popular Fascists' and 'Death to the CDS and whoever supports them', they marched off in the direction of the Crystal Palace. They stopped outside a barracks and asked that the congress be called off. 'The congress will not continue because the people won't let it they shouted. Towards 8 pm they arrived at the hall, their numbers now swollen to about 5000.
Inside, the speakers began to panic as they realised they were surrounded. Discussions in the hall became more tense when it was learned that the armed forces had taken over certain positions from the Riot Police (PSP). Finally, just after 9 pm, Freitas do Amaral advised the congress to take precautions. Barricades were set up, using old mattresses and chairs. At 9.30 pm the congress adjourned sine die.
Darkness fell. The arrival of the National Guard (GNR) with dogs and machine guns to defend the delegates incensed the demonstrators who started shouting 'Catarina Eufemia will be avenged' (referring to the peasant girl murdered by the GNR in 1954). Stones Were thrown. The police replied with tear gas. The demonstrators moved towards the main gate of the hall, forcing it open. The first shots from the police were heard. Hand to hand fighting broke out between leftists and CDS delegates who had formed a defence guard. Molotov cocktails were hurled at the CDS cars outside. A Mercedes and a Jaguar were burnt to ashes. A corner of Porto had become a battlefield.
People in nearby houses passed lemons to the demonstrators, to help them avoid the worst effects of the gas. Cheers broke out when an Alfa Romeo burst into flames. The cry went out 'Burn the CDS'. Twelve wounded were taken to hospital.
Finally COPCON arrived. Some of the soldiers were embraced by the demonstrators. The PSp retired and violent incidents stopped there and then. A lieutenant asked everyone to withdraw, giving assurances that the congress would be suspended. No one moved. An appeal over the radio fell on deaf ears. COPCON asked that the CDS flag be removed from the hall. Still the demonstrators refused to move, their ranks now swollen by many young workers. The situation remained deadlocked: the CDS delegates inside the hall, the forces of the left surrounding them.
Towards 11.30 pm a detachment of GNR on horse-back was brought up. Barricades were built as soon as they were spotted. But COPCON forces took up a position between the two sides, firing shots over the heads of the GNR. The GNR retreated. Well into the night the demonstrators stood firm outside the hall. discussing the situation. By 5 am only about a hundred were left.
Paratroopers were flown in from Lisbon. It was feared that the situation would flare up again in the morning and that a confrontation between the military and the National Guard might ensue. By 8 am a force of army vehicles set up a blockade, surrounding the entire area. Some 180 cars raced out of the pavilion grounds. The battle was over. It had left 17 wounded (12 civilians and 5 police).
Throughout the night, various political groups had taken positions on the events (see Appendix 17).
The CDS, in complete disarray, spoke of withdrawing from the elections. Organising and preparing for them would, they said, now have to be done in secret. In fact the CDS did hold a secret congress iry Lisbon on February 22, 1975. No information was given out afterwards concerning the number of delegates attending, or where they came from.
From January 1975 onwards congresses and meetings of both CDS and PDC were repeatedly attacked. A meeting of the PDC in Braga was fired on by an unknown group. Between January 1975 and the April elections it was estimated that nearly half the political meetings organised by these two parties (and by the PPD) had been broken up or hampered in some way. The PDC was almost totally discredited. Only meetings addressed by Major Sanches Os6rio could attract a crowd. CDS, it seemed, was on the point of extinction. The next target for the left would surely be the PPD.
On March 8, 1975 the PPD held a meeting in the Naval Club in Setubal, a large industrial area 40 km from Lisbon. Some 2000 demonstrators from LUAR, MES, FEC ml, FSP, UDP, PRP-BR gathered outside the club in Avenida Luisa Todi. About a hundred police also assembled to protect the meeting. The banner of the PPD was burnt amid shouts of 'Out with the PPD and the Reaction'. The police tried to stop the demonstrators from entering the club. They opened fire on the crowd, shooting low from the position of the bullet marks. One demonstrator was killed and fourteen wounded. The news was broadcast and forces from all over the area began to mobilise. Setubal boasted many PCP supporters though they were by no means in control. As fighting continued troops from the Escola PrAtica de Infantaria were brought in to reinforce the paratroopers and soon took over from the Riot Police.
'This is the gravest incident since April 25th' said the PPD communique. 'It endangers the whole revolution.
0 The Maoists, inflamed by the death of their comrade, shouted 'Setubal is red' ... 'Down with the Reaction' 'Comunismo' ... 'Exterminate the Popular Democrats'. They marched off to the headquarters of the PSP, demanding that those responsible for the shooting be arrested. The paratroopers watched the situation closely, but did not interfere.
The 50 men in the police station were besieged all night and the whole of the following day. The Colonel in charge of the paratroopers approached some of the demonstrators but got nowhere. Later that evening he oke through a loudhailer and told the demonstrators at the police were being taken away. The troops were booed. 'The soldiers are with the people' the colonel stressed. 'Why, then, are the police being freed?' came the answer. The police vans (with the police inside, for a change) were beaten and generally roughed up as they sped off. Final toll: one dead, thirty injured.
It had been a revealing episode. The troops, afraid of losing support, had not interfered. If they had been ordered to,would they have attacked the demonstrators? Many of the soldiers were personally known by the local people. This was the crucial point,and the authorities knew it.They were wise enough not to put the matter the test.
A small group of Maoists went off to the headquarters of the Escok Pritica to protest about the incident, but the vast majority scorned any confrontation with the troops. A BritishGuardian reporter and a photographer with the American magazine Time were roughed up as they phoned their reports to Lisbon.
The reporters were 'gone over' because of the unfavourable way they had reported the CDS meeting in Porto, and because of their hostile attitude to the entire political scene in Portugal. In general European and American newspapers tacitly supported CDS and PPD, by innuendo if not directly. Reporting street events they generally lumped the PCP together with all the left groups (which maddened the PC?). In their selection of newsworthy it ems they stressed the climate of fear without mentioning the joy. They constantly emphasised what the professional politicians said, rather than what people were doing. They trivialised instead of seeking to understand. They seemed to stay most of the time in their hotel rooms or in the international bars of Cascais, only to emerge when invited out by PPD or CDS politicians. Or was it policy decided in London and Paris which dictated the content of their reports? With one or two exceptions (Financial Times, Le Monde) western reporting had been invariably negative. This was not only referred to by the Prime Minister (Vasco Goncalves) and senior members of the MFA (like Rosa Coutinho) but also by Mario Soares and Alvaro Cunhal. Reporters are the worst kind of chameleons. They change colours with every political wind and it would be utopian to expect anything else of them. They cater for the moment, and the moment is capitalism.