VIII. The MFA

Portugal - The Impossible Revolution? -- Phil Mailer

VIII. THE MFA

BEGINNINGS

The Portuguese armed forces have a long political past. They have been the springboard for both the republican revolution in 1910, and the successful putsch of 1926. Between 1926 and the Second World War Portugal witnessed a staggering number of attempted coups. Unlike similar groups which achieved power in Europe in the 1920's and 1930's the Portuguese fascist movement drew its strength from the military. There had been no mass movement for fascism, as in Italy or Germany. Fascist power in Portugal was vested in the hands of a series of paramilitary formations. The Lisbon Military Academy, an elite school of officers, was widely regarded as the backbone of the Salazar regime. The Ministry for Security was subordinate to the Chief of the Armed Forces. So was the chief of the GNR (Republican National Guard). Civilian duties were undertaken by specially designed paramilitary groups like the Legiao Portuguesa and the Guarda.

The officers of the armed forces had enjoyed some elbow room within this apparatus. They had sought to use this freedom during the abortive coups of 1930, 1931, 1954 and 1962. No such freedom however existed for the ranks. It was not until the unsuccessful coup led by exGeneral Humberto Delgado that the PIDE began to infiltrate the armed forces. But even then their action was limited and they could not act autonomously. It was usually the GNR who were mobilised against rebellious units of the armed forces, on specific orders from the military elite.

The structure of the Portuguese armed forces had been in flux since the Second World War. The class composition of these forces had also begun to change. During the fifties the military profession fell into disrepute among the top families in the country. The aristocracy and the upper-middle class stopped sending their sons to the 'prestigious' Military Academies,driving them instead towards university or professional qualifications. By the early seventies all higher ranks in the army still carried the names of elite families. But as one descended the ladder these names disappeared. With the opening of three colonial wars admissions to the Military Academies were halved. By 1972-3 they had fallen to a quarter of what they had been in 1958.

Because of conscription many officers had to be appointed direct from universities or colleges, rushed through a minimum period of military training, and shipped off to Africa almost immediately. Many of those later involved in the coup of April 25th had been students during the early sixties, at a time of great discussion and upheaval.

Training schemes, during the sixties, had allowed soldiers to attend university and technical colleges to study engineering and mechanics. Many soldiers of working class and peasant origin had been promoted on the strength of the qualifications thus acquired. Through contact with students (and in particular with maoist groups) little pockets of resistance had been set up. From 1971 on, small political nuclei such as RPA (Resistencia Popular Antifascista) had been created within military and naval units. They handed out leaflets and carried out propaganda against the war and the colonial policies it stemmed from.

Pay was obviousQ a weak point within the whole system. Conscripts earned some 150 escudos a month, less than the price of a pair of boots. Remuneration rose rapidly for the officers. A conscripted man with a family was condemned to unimaginab[e hardship when shipped off to compulsory service in the colonies. The duration of conscription was two years in 1962. It had risen to four years by 1971, and usually involved anything from 9 to 24 months of service overseas.

The intransigent position of the Salazarist and Caetanist regimes benefited only a handful. The profits reaped from Angola and from South African payments for workers from Mozambique (who crossed the frontier to work in South Africa) enriched Portugal's rulers. But the cost to the working class in repression and death was not shown on any national balance sheet. Thousands of young men deserted. Tens of thousands refused call-up and fled the country.

The armed forces were challenged frontally, too. Groups like LUAR, PRP-BR and others attacked the policies by attacking military units: barracks were raided, ships blown up. It was against this background that the 'Movement of the Captains' was born.

Like every other institution the armed forces had attracted PIDE infiltrators and spies. But the officers' ranks proved less amenable to penetration. The first contacts between officers took place in June 1973, as a reaction to a celebration by the right-wing 'Association of War Veterans' who had called for 'further concrete action against the red terror'.

Many different groups were probably meeting at about the same time and only later joined forces.' The government decrees of September 1973, allowing returning conscript officers to integrate into the old regular cadre, caused much unrest. So did the wage demands of the regular sergeants. According to the journalist Luis Carandal, who had been in contact with the movement from its inception, the first coming together of various currents of disaffection took place in Cascais, a middle- class Lisbon suburb. The 200 officers present had all been professionals. Smaller meetings later took place regularly, to discuss the implications of the war and the political situation. A meeting in Obidos, on December 1, 1973, took the decision to carry out a military coup, as soon as the opportunity arose.

Portugal 5 turn towards trade with the EEC countries was misinterpreted by right-wing generals as a policy of 'liberalisation'. They attempted a putsch in December 1973, under General Kaulza de Arriaga. Its failure was the result of opposition by the 'Movement of the Captains' and only helped consolidate that movement further.

A manifesto (Appendix 18) generally believed to have circulated among the armed forces in February and early March 1974, clearly shows what was being discussed. An accompanying letter called for solidarity with comrades who had been arrested and were being held in prison at Trafaria. It urged all concerned to hold fast, and not to allow divisions to appear within the three branches of the armed forces.

Four days after this manifesto came the abortive revolt at Caldas da Rainha. Another manifesto from the 'Movement of the Captains', dated March 18, spoke of four comrades having been arrested. It applauded the decision of Generals Spinola and Costa Gomes and of Admiral Bogalho not to take part in the demonstration of support for Caetano. It spoke of the troops at Caldas having been excessively hasty, but expressed total solidarity with what they had done. 'Their cause is our cause' it said. The manifesto strongly condemned the forces of the PIDE/DGS, of the GNR and of the Portuguese Legion for their role in stopping the RI-S (Fifth Infantry Regiment), who had left Caldas that night. It called for caution, and urged its supporters to be ready and to await the appropriate signal.

Brigadier Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho (then a major, and to whom - for reasons of brevity - we shall hence-forth refer to as Otelo) spoke later of the difficulty of organising under the Caetano regime. (Expresso, January 4, 1975). He said that on March 12,1974 he had gone to General Spinola's house to ask him if he knew what Caetano was shortly going to announce in the Assembly.' Spinola revealed that he, Spinola, was to be dismissed as well as General Costa Gomes. Gomes had authorised the publication of Spinola's book Portugal and the Future in which a call had been made for a political rather than a military solution to the war.

'We prepared a plan of action and LieutenantColonel Garcia dos Santos, Major Casanova, Major Monje, Major Azevedo and I collaborated in it. Five units were to be involved, among them RI-S, Escolas Praticas and a unit of paratroopers ... On March 13 we met and decided the plan was impossible. The cou p had been planned for that night. But as it was postponed the various units disarmed, all except light-infantry regiment RI-S. Major Casanova tried to calm them, telling them there would be a new plan. He asked them to wait until the following Monday. We had a meeting on the 15th, Monje, Captain Marques Ramos, Major Casanova attiot. It was reported that certain units were very impatient. We heard from Major Lamego that a unit was armed and ready to go onto the streets. A great enthusiasm spread through everyone, especially Major Monje. We separated at 9.30 pm and were not to meet again until the 25th. 1 went off to carry out my assignments. The others went to Caldas. We had no means of contacting one another. I found out later that Major Monje spent the whole night phoning various units to see who would advance on Lisbon: no one would leave. In the end only the unit from Caldas left. Major Monje went to the house of Major Casanova, waking him up and asking him to accompany the Caldas troops and try to get them to return, as they were completely isolated. I went to Lkbon and passed the house of Major Monje: there were three cars of DGS agents in front of it. I went to Encarnacao where Major Monje was supposed to be meeting the columns as they arrived. I saw nothing, only cadoads of DGS and police. I remained there until 7 am and saw the columns of BC-S (Fifth Cavalry) and Seventh Cavalry arrive (to stop the coup). By that time it was useless. I returned to Lisbon and learned that Monje and Casanova had been arrested'.

The March 16 coup failed. But the arrests and tortures which followed strengthened the resolve of the Movement. It was decided not to write any more communiques. The Coordinating Committee met and agreed upon a programme.To prevent the growth of nuclei of dissafection,many of the officcers thought to have been involved were posted to other units. This helped, as it allowed them to spread their ideas to areas not previously affected. Copies of the programme reached Spinola and Costa Gomes by the end of March. They made certain changes which in turn were further altered by the Coordinating Committee for the Programme (CCP). The signal came on the morning of April 25th; it had been worked out in the fashionable 'Drugstore 70' by Otelo and a disc jockey whom he trusted. 'Grandola, Vila Morena' was played over Radio Renascenca and a current hit played over Emissores de Lisboa.

APRIL 25, 1974

Two distinct groups had been moving towards political intervention. First the Movement of the Captains with, at its head, the CCP. The CCP included Melo Antunes, Vasco Goncalves, Vitor Alves and 16 others. Scattered throughout the country were small groups of officers and captains (some 800 men all told) who were to coordinate the various units.

The second group was smaller and was only used by the Movement to provide itself with a certain respectability and cover. It centred around Generals Spinola and Costa Gomes, and officers like Major Sanches Osorio and Firmino Miguel. Contacts between the two groups were frequent and some officers belonging to the 'Movement of the Captains' supported the group around Spinola.

The coup itself was carried out by the 'Movement of the Captains' and Spinola himself did not know the exact details until military preparations had actually begun. Captain Maia, a Cavalry commander in Santarem, 29 years old and with active service in Guine-Bissau and Mozambique under Spinola, was one of the principal contacts between the two groups and one of the leaders of the assault on Lisbon: 'I received the orders two days before the 25th and after that I was watched closely by agents of the DGS. I contacted all units and told them "to be ready for what we were looking for". Until the actual event very few officers knew the timing.'

The Cavalry unit was the first to arrive in Lisbon. They passed a unit of GNR, who thought they were on manoeuvres. No resistance was met. If there had been trouble there was a plan to retreat to Santarem, and to hold out there. Contacts between the Coordinating Committee and Spinola took place in the morning and Spinola agreed to join Captain Maja. Captain Maja had meantime surrounded the GNR Headquarters in Carmo, and gone to meet Caetano. 'I know I no longer govern Caetano had said. 'I only hope to be treated with the dignity to which I am accustomed'. He asked who the leaders were. Maia answered that he only knew them by the code name OSCAR, but that eight generals were involved. Caetano refused to surrender to anyone of lesser rank than a general. Finally, after conversations between Alvaro Roquete (Minister of Tourism) and Spinola, the Prime Minister resigned.

The immediate result was the setting up of the 'Junta for National Salvation'. The group around Spinola predominated on this body, with five represen-tatives as against two from the 'Movement of the Captains'. The Junta comprised the Chief and Vice{Shief of the Armed Forces (Generals Spinola and Costa Gomes), the Chief of Transport (Brigadier Jaime Silverto Marques), Captain Pinheiro de Azevedo (Navy), Captain Rosa Coutinho (Navy), Colonel Gao de Melo (Air Force), and General Diogo Neto (Air Force). Spinola, as president, appointed a government.

Thus immediately after April 25th it was the group around Spinola who took the reins of power, although this power was anything but absolute. Strong influence was exerted by known public figures and by leaders of the political parties, as well as by the Coordinating Committee for the Programme. This body continued to exist, as a body distinct from the Junta. The 'Movement of the Captains' became the Armed Forces Movement (MFA). Similarly, the Coordination Committees in each branch of the armed forces continued to meet, both together and separately. The sum total of these committees eventually became known as the General Assembly of the MFA.

With the collapse of the First Provisional Government of Palma Carlos, the CCP became, with the Junta, the most important decision-making body in the country. Palma Carlos had wanted more power for the politicians and less dependence on the armed forces. To the CCP this was tantamount to renouncing the decisive role it had played on April 25th. Members of the Committee saw it as putting their whole programme in jeopardy.

Here was one of the essential weaknesses (or perhaps strengths) of the whole movement. The 'programme' was ambiguous and open to all sorts of interpretations. It was a matter of political power what particular interp retation was to be given, at any particular time and by any particular group to such notions as 'democracy', 'assistance to the underprivileged classes', etc.

By August 1974 Sp inola had himself taken over negotiations with the Angolan liberation movements. He was making more and more political statements without reference to the movement as a whole. The group of officers around him, and in particular individuals like Sanches Osorio, were putting pressure on him to halt the swing to the left within the country. The demonstration of the 'silent majority' was, Spinola claimed, a clear call for a strong presidential system.

On the night of September 27 Otelo went to the presidential palace. He later described what happened:

'Instead of speaking with us Spinola summoned a meeting of the Junta. Vasco Goncalves went. it was a sad scene. An attempt was made to sack three members of the Junta. I was told that I was no longer in command of COPCON. I told them that Costa Gomes had always been in command and that I was merely his assistant. I phoned COPCON and told them that I would organise events from there Spinola attempted to entice units to his side and to create a climate of doubt between these units and ourselves, the MFA. The cavalry units, the parachutists and the commandos didn't know whether to stay with the General, or to trust our intentions.

Melo Antunes attributed the crisis to complacency within the MFA.

'This complacency, this excessive tolerance resulted from a false idea of what the democratic process was, perhaps motivated by too much liberalism, by a jacobin tradition of democracy which still exists in Portugal. '

The Third Government had not altered the existing political structures. It had merely changed the leaders. The Superior Council of the Movement came into being. It was primarily technical and shared power with the General Assembly of the MFA, the latter body being made up of 240 officers. The General Assembly consisted of officers in all three sections of the armed forces. The army was represented by 114 out of the 240 delegates.

The General Assembly was therefore what the MFA had become in the days that followed September 28. Their bulletin Movimento was published fortnightly. The October editorial said 'Spinola has fallen but the infrastructures which allowed Spinola are still intact.'

SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' COMMITTEES

The MFA General Assembly claimed that through the Councils of Arms direct links existed between themselves and the lower ranks. There was increasing pressure however from the lower ranks for more formal inclusion into the structure of the MFA. In many cases authority and orders had been questioned or disobeyed. On May 1, 1974 soldiers had been forbidden to demonstrate though this order had been openly flouted. On May 3 a soldiers' meeting in Tancos Barracks was stopped. During the first week of June soldiers from Torres Novas had said they would refuse to go to the colonies. Demonstrations had been organised by the mothers of those involved.

In June 1974, two soldiers who had refused to break up the CTT strikes were arrested and sent to Trafaria, the military prison. On July 9 two more men were arrested for handing out maoist literature in the barracks.

On October 6 soldiers in Lisbon refused to participate in the 'Day of Work' organised by Vasco Goncalves and were imprisoned. The newspaper Comerdo do Funchal was fined for publishing an article about the matter. In November some soldiers who had broken up a CDS rally in Lisbon were arrested. On November 28, eight soldiers were arrested for organising a meeting outside the barracks of Escola Prdtica, an infantry division in Mafra, near Lisbon. All 400 cadets were transferred to the General Contingent, thus bringing them within tighter control by the Junta. Their manifesto is informative. It was triggered by the banning of a show in the barracks of Eisenstein's film 'Battleship Potemkin'.

'The cadets have, from the outset, resisted all forms of education geared to fighting wars of aggression in the colonies. We are against the systematic denial of our right to hold meetings and to debate freely. We are against the invocation of rules totally alien to the new spirit, which the paper Movimento (magazine of the MFA) has encouraged. We are against the heart-to-heart talks of the command, who say such things as 'the army is apolitical', clearly showing thereby that they are on the side of the reaction... The unjust imprisonment of our comrades compels us to act. We have refused to eat and we shall continue to refuse instruction. And we shall do this in the presence of a member of the Central Committee of the MFA, to show him what is happening here. Irrespective of our political differences and without reference to political parties, the time actively to defend the programme of the MFA is now. Inside the barracks fascism continues. Our struggle will not stop. Free the prisoners. Purge the fascists.' Signed by 400 cadets of the First Unit of Mafra (published in Combate, Revolucao, Esquerda Socialista).

Solidarity groups were formed in other barracks, most notably by the cadets of RAL-1,in Lisbon. Arrests of these dissident soldiers were carried out by COPCON.

Maoist soldiers were particularly liable to arrest. In December one of the men arrested during the smashing of the CDS congress in Lisbon in November, Etelvino de Jesus, went on hunger strike. This provoked a demonstration by Maoists in Lisbon. Maoist soldiers who attended meetings in uniform were subject to immediate arrest. LUAR, likewise, had attracted many soldiers who had attended demonstrations in uniform. Here too arrests had followed.

Despite the repression many barracks had set up committees by-passing their commanders, or at least threatening a dual power situation. Even members of COPCON had be en known to act independently of orders from above. The allegiance of many troops could not be relied upon by their officers.

On January 8, 1975 an entire infantry battalion (Battalion 4911) refused to go to Angola and called for 'support to the MPLA'. Tb e leaders were promptly arrested. Many units began to publish their own papers. RAL-1 in Lisbon, published the magazine Contestavel (to contest) in which they were not always in agreement with the MFA and its paper (Movimento). The cavalry unit published the magazine Chaimite, the Air Force o Elo. Many of these journals openly called for the democratisation of the armed forces.

The troops of RAL-1 had openly supported the Inter-Empresas demonstration called on February 7,1975, and there had been many other less spectacular occasions where the troops sided with the workers. By doing so they often pushed the MFA further to the left.

A special case was the 'Campaign for Knowledge and Dynamisation', an 'agit-prop' idea emanating from a unit of the Fifth Infantry Division and promptly recuperated by the PCP. It was hoped to transform normal military exercises into political exercises. Colonel Varela Gomes organised the campaign for the MFA, but had very little control over the content of the missions. Units went into the countryside, 'explaining' the coup and why it had been necessary. They asked people to organise in their areas to discuss their problems.

WHAT POLITICAL ROLE?

The Council of Twenty was the effective political leadership of the MFA, though its decisions depended in many instances upon ratification by meetings of the 240 delegates comprising the General Assembly. The question of the future political role of the MFA was paramount.

On January 4, 1975 an MFA plenano discussed the problems of the new Constituent Assembly due to be elected in April. As early as November 1974 Vitor Alves, an important spokesman for the 'moderate' role of the MFA, had envisaged three possible relationships between the military and this Assembly. The MFA could either elect delegates to it, or send observers, or claim a 10% or 20% representation. While promising civilian power by the end of 1975 Alves stated 'What is happening in our country has nothing in common with Ethiopia or Peru. In Portugal the military appeal to civilians to rule and to guide the country.' But the question of the precise political role of the MFA was open. In any case events were to help decide the issue.

It was the MFA Assembly which discussed the general economic and political problems facing the country. The Council of Twenty then took the decisions and drafted them into plans. These were then brought back to the Assembly to be voted upon. j Influence in the Assembly was of paramount interest I to the political parties. It was their only lifeline to power. On February 8, 1975 Expresso, analysing the MFA Assembly, saw two possible solutions. The first, sponsored and supported by officers close to the PCP, was commonly known as the 'Dominant Intervention Theory'. It held that 'the situation of exploitation only ends with the destruction of the capitalist system in Portugal and the substantial decline of foreign dependence. It is necessary immediately to define the phases and stages for socialising the means of production, to define the limits of private capital and the type of support which should be given to small and medium manufacturers ...' The second solution, PS-influenced, was known as the 'Moderate Plan'. It called for 'the abandonment of all secret meetings, the publication of what the structures and powers of the MFA were, and for elections to the MFA Assembly by all rank-and-file units of the armed forces. It also called for the free discussion by the Assembly of its domains of power and of the MFA's relation to other bodies.'

No conclusions were reached. Expresso saw the MFA as divided into three camps. The first, generally considered close to the PCP, centred around Vasco Gonealves, Otelo and certain members of the Junta. The second group was known as the 'Spinolists'. It represented those officers who had been on the General's side before April 25th and was considered right-wing. The third group, politically liberal although not very well defined, centred around Vitor Alves and Melo Antunes. It was thought to have wide support in the Air Force.

Elections to the Council of Arms ,early in March 1975, revealed support for the second and third groups. Otelo and others were not re-elected. The question of a future role for the armed forces was coming to a head.

MARCH 11, 1975

March 11th came as a complete surprise. It wasn't that a right-wing coup hadn't been expected. The real surprise was that it was launched so soon and so ineptly. The defeat of Otelo (as well as of other known MFA 'lefts') in the election to the Council of Arms had certainly been a setback for them. But it hardly warranted the optimism felt on the right. It wasn't optimism, however, which drove the right to attempt a coup, but fear.

Rumours had started circulating that COPCON was about to arrest all right-wing military leaders within the MFA (and that LUAR was about to attempt an 'Easter Massacre'). They allegedly had a list of 100 Spinolists whom they were on the point of assassinating. The stories were given credence by the circulation among right-wing officers of a document to the effect that their days were numbered.

If the two T6 planes and four helicopters used in the attempted coup of March 11 had waited another ten minutes a massacre would certainly have ensued. Troops of the 'left-orientated' RAL-1 in Sacavem (near Lisbon airport) were about to sit down to lunch in their canteen when bombs began dropping on their barracks. A Volkswagen and its military driver, one Joaquim Carvalho Luis were blown to pieces. Rocket fire blasted gaping holes in the walls of the canteen. With the first news of the attack thousands of civilians headed for Sacavem. An RTP(TV) team, stationed nearby, rushed to the scene.

A unit of paratroopers, commanded by Captain sebastiao Martins approached the RAL-1 headquarters. 'I've orders to occupy your barracks' Martins told Ca p tam Dinis de Almeida, the RAL-1 commander. 'I have orders to defend the barracks. What's on?' Almeida answered. Martins took a document from his pocket: 'Surely you know about the orders?'

'What?' answered Almeida. 'You're prepared to attack us just because of a piece of paper?'

'It is not just a piece of paper' Martins replied. 'There are individuals in high places who aren't pleased with the way things are going. It is in the name of these people and in defence of the elections that we are acting'.

'The MFA have guaranteed the elections' Almeida retorted. 'In this country orders come from the President, don't they? If you don't agree, we'll have to fight it out. But remember the people are not with you.' Civilian crowds had appeared on the scene. They joined in: 'The people are not with you! The people are not with you!'

Martins' paratroopers, seeing they had been fooled, agreed as a unit to go over to RAL-1. Men who might have been killing each other rushed forward and embraced. Civilians, likewise, were caught up in the joy and excitement. Everything was decided there and then. And (a sign of the times) the two units, without phoning for orders, decided on a joint action which was to influence the whole future course of events.

The repercussions were explosive. Thousands, remembering September 28th, put up barricades in the streets. In September they had done so in desperation: the March barricades were barricades of exultation, of relief, of solidarity. Throughout the afternoon journalists and radio announcers called for popular vigilance. They were answered in all sorts of ways. The April 25th Bridge into Lisbon was blockaded. The road from Porto was also blocked. Armed civilians and leftists manned key points and crossroads. Cars were searched as far away as Leiria, Coimbra and Setubal. Young workers with guns stood holding the streets. In Porto, frustration was vented on the CDS offices which were completely destroyed. Most of their files were burnt on a public bonfire. In Lisbon the CDS headquarters we re also sacked. Spinola's house in Cascais was looted and yet more files burned. Otelo spoke on TV, promising that 'if necessary, COPCON would arm the people to defend the revolution'. Words came easily. It was already obvious that 'the Revolution' wasn't going to be overthrown on March 11. By evening the right-wing was crushed. Spinola and 18 officers fled to Spain. From there, they made for Brazil in the wake of Caetano and Tomas.

Spontaneous actions broke out everywhere. Bank workers closed the banks in the early afternoon and arrested their managers. Eight directors of the Espirito Santo Bank were about to sit down to a meeting when armed workers and soldiers burst into their office and lined them all up against a wall. Lisnave workers left their factories in Margueira and organised pickets on the streets, searching cars. Thousands of others did likewise.

For three days the left and workers' group exercised total power. An article about Spinola in the Parisian paper Temoignage Chretien (March 6) had said that US ambassador Frank Carlueci (who had CIA connexions) had given the go-ahead for a right-wing take-over in Portugal. Otelo's remark on March 11 that 'Carlucci had better have plans to leave the country or face the con-sequences' was seen as related to the failed coup. Kissinger, according to a Sunday Times (London) report, had sanctioned the use of the CIA.

On March 11 the GNR and the paratroopers had been the only troops to have sided with the right. General Freire Damijo, commander of the GNR1 and General Rui Tavares Monteiro (of the Air Force) had planned the whole operation. They had expected support from liberal MFA Members but never got it. Damiao sought refuge in the German Embassy (who finally handed him over to COPCON). Monteiro ended up with Spinola, in Brazil.

The funeral of 'soldier Luis' showed how far off target the right had been. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and workers turned out, to pay their respects. The RAL-1 Manifesto of March 11 illustrated the prevailing mood

'TO ALL SOLDIERS AND SAILORS, WORKERS AND PEASANTS TO ALL ANTI-FASCIST MILITARY AND DEMOCRATS TO ALL THE PEOPLE... The criminal fascist attempt this morning against the soldiers of RAL-1 goes to show that the purges and demoting of right-wing troops and of known reactio-naries (who sell themselves to capitalists and imperialists) are not enough to stop them preparing the counter-revolution and throwing the entire popular movement into bloody conflict. Comrades, While the PIDE continue to be treated lightly (that is when they're not actually released), while the fascist parties continue to enjoy a legal existence, while the people are fired on in Setubal (March 8), while soldiers and military personnel in struggle against fascist repression are held prisoners in their own barracks, while the bourgeois parties falsely defend the people by organising carnivals, while all this goes on the people continue to be brutally exploited and oppressed. But, comrades, the soldiers are sons of the people. The soldiers and all the anti-fascist military know how to turn their guns against the bourgeoisie and against the fascist officers, and line up on the side of the people. Comrades, The soldiers and all the RAL-1 military (who have always struggled against fascism and those who seek to protect it) are against oppression. We demand the immediate execution of all the fascists and those who seek to hide them, whether they be military personnel or not, generals or not. Death to fascism Popular Justice Imperialism out of Portugal Immediate execution of all fascists The soldiers are sons of the people. The soldiers and all military personnel in RAL-1, bombed by the fascists, Encarnacao, March 11, 1975.

These events resolved, for a while, the whole debate over the political future of the MFA. The Movement was 'institutionalised'. A 'Superior Council of the Revolution', numbering 28 people, was set up as a supreme policy-making body. It would remain in power for three years. All political parties planning to take part in the elections were asked to sign a pact endorsing this arrangement.

The first action of the new Council was to nationalise the 19 commercial banks. Only 3 international banks were left in private hands. Between them the commercial banks had controlled the bulk of the Portuguese economy. Over 99% of loans granted had been to private individuals or firms. The insurance companies, mostly controlled by the same families, were also nationalised. Of the 35 national companies 3 held over 33% of the market and were owned by Champalimaud, de Brito and the Espirito Santo family.

Steel, transport, electricity and petrol were also nationalised. Prices were declared 'frozen' until the end of 1975. An estimated 50% of the total industrial capital of the country passed into the hands of the state. The minimum monthly wage was raised to 3600 eseudos while a programme of agrarian reform was proposed. A sum of 5 million escudos was to be invested in cooperatives and agrarian associations. An Institute for the Reorganisation of Agriculture (IRA) was set up to overlook regional councils. The movement towards state capitalism took a great lurch forwards.

Economic problems remained serious. Between January and April1975 adeficit of 13548 million escudos was recorded. Gold reserves were dwindling, and emigrants were sending little cash home. Economic dependence on the EEC countries (which accounted for 45% of Portugal's imports, and 16% of its exports) was critical and financial aid was badly needed. It is worth noting that a trade deficit with Russia also occurred during this period, despite the claim by the PCP that Russia was helping Portugal.

The Bank Workers' Union (affiliated to Intersindical) exposed the economic sabotage and malpractice of the large banking families. Accounts in false names or in the names of known right-wingers were mysteriously credited with money, which was then passed on to various right-wing parties including CDS and PPD. Money from the government to bolster employment was diverted to small companies in the colonies and false figures published to cover this up. Many of those involved in these practices, including the administrators of the banks, were arrested and imprisoned.

More serious in some ways was the news that ELP (the Army for the Liberation of Portugal) was preparing an attack on the country. Based in Spain and supported by Portuguese businessmen who had fled after April 25th, this body had received massive financial support from some of the banking families. It had also been engaged in arms deals in Europe, and in large scale gun smuggling. The ELP had advised against the March 11th attempt, asking Spinolist officers to await a more opportune moment.

Most groups (including the PPD and the PS) welcomed the nationalisations. MES, LUAR and PRP-BR were 'critical', adding that the nationalisations had to be accompanied by 'workers control'. Demonstrations in support of the steps taken were called by the PCP and by Intersindical. 'Nationalised in the service of the people' was a slogan which appeared over many banks and companies throughout the country. The new administrators were military men or 'left-wing' economists, belonging to MDP-CDE. The nationalisations made little difference to the workers' real struggles.