III. The First Three Months

Submitted by libcom on August 7, 2005

Portugal - The Impossible Revolution? -- Phil Mailer



There is double-talk everywhere. On May 1st the Junta announced that 'the nation was supporting the workers'. They are now claiming that 'the workers are supporting the liberation of the nation'. A middle class group around Expresso is organising a Liberal Party (centreleft, they call it). Mano Soares, already behaving as Foreign Minister, is off to London to discuss things with Wilson. The papers are atrocious. Republica headlines 'The people are no longer in fear'. This is nonsense. Nothing has changed except the politicians. Those afraid of being without money or food still have these fears.

In Paris the offices of the Portuguese consul have been stormed and passports handed out to draft-dodgers, to deserters, and to many emigre workers. The government has granted a partial amnesty: those returning must join up. In all the working class bars there is intense discussion and argument. Football is all but forgotten. Feelings are very mixed: tremendous strength and hope, but also an awareness of crisis. Nothing is certain.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing is the sense of confidence, growing daily. There is nothing but goodwill for the working class throughout the world. People are discussing the situation in France, England, Argentina and Brazil as if they'd been professors of politics all their lives. My neighbour has changed beyond recognition, as she wonders ecstatically if the workers can win. She says she 'doesn't understand much about politics'. But after months of silence, forced respectability and fear, her open happiness and excitement are unbelievably refreshing.

Name changing is the thing: Stadium Toma's becomes Liberty Stadium, Salazar Bridge is now the Bridge of April 25th or Red Bridge. Strange to believe, the value of the escudo has risen on the world market. Agostinho Neto, the leader of the Angolan Liberation Front (MPLA) has sent a declaration to the Portuguese people. (Appendix 7).

On May 6 the fishermen of Matostnhos refuse to go fishing for their Company. The dispute lasts four days. In the tourist complex in Troia, on May 9, some 4000 workers stop working. Timex, the watch factory near Lisbon, is occupied by its 1800 workers who call for wage increases and for the purging of 6 PIDEs. On May 13 the 1600 workers in the mines of Panasqueira (400 Cabo-Verdians are among them) demand a minimum wage of 6000 escudos and stay away to enforce their demand.

In Porto thousands demonstrate in the poorer districts of the city asking for decent housing. Firestone workers in Lisbon, Alcochete, Porto and Coimbra occupy their factories and call for the purging of their foreign managers. On the l5th, 8400 Lisnave workers go on strike and occupy the premises while in the North some 500 miners at Borralha join the other striking miners. As the First Provisional Government is being formed, on May 16, University canteen workers join the growing movement. Textile workers in Covilha, Mira d'Aire, Castanheira de Pera are also involved. In Lisbon, many workers are on strike, from Sacor (oil refineries) to Messa (typewriters).

While the left papers were getting themselves organised or reorganised the fishermen of Nazare andm the workers of Bayer (pharmaceuticals) came out on strike. On May 21, some 20,000 metal workers marched through Lisbon demanding higher wages. The first issue of Luta Popular discussed a wide variety of disputes including the strike of the Lisbon taxi drivers. On the same day the workers of the partly state-owned oil tanker company, Soponata, also became involved. The 600 workers on land occupied the offices while the 1400 merchant seamen radioed their support from the high seas.

On the 27th, 5000 workers of Carris (transport) refused to take out their buses. The unions pointed to the example of Chile (likening the Carris dispute to the transport owners' strike there). They were attempting to defuse the strike movement. But their efforts were only partly successful, as all the pent-up demands of the workers burst their previous bonds.

Spinola speaks to hundreds of thousands in Porto. This is the first time he has gone north. 'The 25th gave the people freedom' he says. 'We must preserve this liberty ... And now that we have passed this first month of enthusiasm, of euphoria, we must begin to think in a mature way, for the future. We must defend our liberty from reactionary forces, from forces who wish to diminish this freedom. It is not by anarchy, not by economic chaos, by disorder, by unemployment that we can build the Portugal of the future. This is the way of reactionaries, of counter-revolutionaries. The Armed Forces and the people must unite against this road of destruction'.

It is the Armed Forces, and the Junta in particular, who are in power. What influence has the Movement of the Captains? No one knows. Officers have been sent to various parts of the country to 'organise and consolidate'. But to consolidate what? Bourgeois democracy? Bonapartist power? The drive towards state capitalism? No one is quite sure. Few people ask themselves questions of this kind. One thing is certain: the army is a bourgeois army, both in terms of the class society it defends and of its own hierarchical structures.

The government of Palma Carlos, which some journalist described as 'more of a beehive than a proper government', tries to administer things. It decides matters of banking, minimum wages, and questions of 'national interest'. But it must consult with Spinola who takes the final decisions.

The left dominate the situation after April 25th. They are everywhere: in control of the established institutions, of many of the papers, of TV. They are organising massively on the industrial scene. Their optimism is high and not without reason. The economic struggles, the victories won, the size of their demonstrations, the universal critique of capitalism gave a tremendous boost to their morale. It would be wrong to imagine, however, that their communiques, discussions and demonstrations reflected the sum total of the fears or hopes that faced working people during those days.

There is hardly space for further mural graffiti. No one, not even the blindest tourist, can miss them. They cover every vacant wall, monument and public building, every corner that people can see, and other places too, which the lost stranger is unlikely to discover. PCP posters are ubiquitous. The papers treat all left-wing documents with respect and give them full coverage. Communiques from MES, LUAR, the PS, the PCP and even the anarchists (who were few, mainly Spanish, and had an average age of 65) are given full-page headlines in the evening editions. Didno de Notzczas was felt to be lagging behind in this respect. It was occupied by its typesetters and changed almost overnight from a right-wing paper to a more liberal one. One of the main grievances of the workers was that the paper 'had not been working in the spirit of the 25th'-Small groups of left-wing intellectuals can have virtually anything published. A group called MARP (Movement for Revolutionary Self-Management of the Proletariat) was granted whole columns for their manifestos and articles. The Communists and Socialists were given pages.

The great families still dominate the economic scene. They are not disposed towards any 'liberalisation' that might jeopardise their privileges. Although the papers concentrate on political and decolonisation issues, some discussion of the economic structure of Portugal gets through.

A certain image of Portuguese capitalism began to emerge. In 1973 there had been some 42,000 companies in Portugal. 36% of them employed fewer than 10 workers, which showed how little industrialisation had proceeded. But a mere 0.5% of them owned over half the total capital of the country, which showed the degree of concentration of capital at the top. Some 150 companies (most of them related to foreign capital) dominated the entire Portuguese economy. An analysis of the 20 main firms showed the same family names constantly recurring: Guedes de Sousa, de Melo, Pinto Bastos, Mendes Almeida, Figueiredo, de Brito. Most of the directors in control before April 25th were still in place, though their power was being i ncreasingly challenged by the Committees. There was no doubt about the political sympathies of these families.

Various diplomatic and economic ties were established with the state capitalist countries. As one newspaper put it Soares was 'up to his ears in diplomacy' with the Eastern bloc. Poland was allowed to participate in the International Industrial Fair in Lisbon, the first time a country from beyond the Iron Curtain had been allowed to promote trade in Portugal. A delegation of Russian 'businessmen' also arrived in Lisbon.

The programme of the MFA had called for 'diplomatic relations with all countries'. Since 'all countries' presumably included Chile, Greece and Spain pressures developed on the government to clarify the situation. The PS and the trotskyist LCI had held a demonstration at the Chilean Embassy where, in irony, they had hoisted a Swastika.

The Provisional Government was not a Popular Front government in the strict sense. It had been appointed from above by the Junta as 'representing' the various classes and groups within society. Within the government the PCP and PS were walking a tight-rope. As the right started to block various decrees and to defend its own interests, the Socialists and Communists became increasingly uneasy about the coalition.

Every factory of any size is being reorganised. The workers are making demands which in most cases include a minimum wage and the saneamento (purging) of former managers. No group has called for workers' control but workers have virtually seized control themselves. There are Committees in many public concerns. Sometimes workers totally manage the enterprise. In the private sector things are different.

In Chapter 5 we shall look at the growth of the Committees, at their composition and functions, at their relations with the unions, and at some of the practical difficulties they met. At this point I wish merely to describe some of the early disputes which marred the 'honeymoon' period of the new regime. They show clearly that no amount of talk about the unity between the MFA and the people (the so-called MFA-POVO Alliance) could bridge the realities of the class struggle.


The Timex story was instructive. The workers had presented a list of demands which was rejected outright. They then occupied the factory, continued making watches and sold them. The factory was run without the management. Representatives of the Armed Forces had been present during the abortive discussions with the representatives of American capital. The workers remained in occupation for a whole month, during which time the demand to be paid for the days of the strike was added to the list of other demands. The Committee produced a 'Proclamation to the Nation' which was published in all the dailies. It organised links with other factories and asked for financial support, which it got. The Jewellers' Union also gave help. The Timex workers did not align themselves behind any political party, though a small group set up a 'Committee to help the struggle at Timex'. The workers rejected all attempts by the Maoists to take over their struggle. The 'Proclamation' stated.

1. 'The Timex workers have been on strike since June 3, in the course of a struggle which started in November 1973, developed in February and reached massive proportions since the beginning of May. The Timex factory is part of a great and brutal system of exploitation and domination, carried on in many parts of the world by imperialist American capital. They aren't choosy about the methods used to achieve their objectives which are to extract the maximum profit and work from the working class, by inhuman methods of exploitation. They know nothing about good human relations, good working conditions, economic needs. They only know one thing; PROFIT. It is against these conditions that we are rising. In particular we want a 40 hour week instead of 45. Most of our workers are young, between 15 and 19. They work 9 hours a day. They sit on wooden chairs under fluorescent light, using often poorly adjusted magnifying glasses and microscopes, working in conditioned air of low humidity and under a constant tension which may lead to nervous collapse and frequent fainting. The work loads aren't constant and are often arbitrarily increased, which tends to exhaust these young workers. After 5 years their health is often already ruined. Their working lives are shortened, for when they can no longer achieve the production required, they are sacked, carrying away with them all the wear and tear and injuries sustained, with all the ensuing problems of finding work. We are calling for the abolition of bonuses. This system always increases the speed of work and results in greater exploitation of the workers, to make more profit for the bosses ... We also want to abolish the bonus system in order to avoid divisions between workers. We want a say in the running of the Personnel Department, if only to control the activities of management, to preserve more human working conditions and to avoid a return to the situation as it was before. We are also calling for a fair wage. in The management has made no reasonable offers response to our demands. They have intrigued to divide us and to block the progress of negotiations. That is why we are waging a total strike, until our demands are met 2. The country is facing a period of bitterly fought struggles between the exploiters and the exploited. The bourgeoisie continue to dominate the people, trying to cheat them and to manoeuvre against them. Capital still believes it owns and runs our destinies. Against this we have to struggle. Ever since society has been divided into classes, a class struggle has existed. The ruling classes have everything: capital, schools, factories, the press. The people have nothing except their labour power. It is against that that the people fight. They will wage the class struggle to its ultimate conclusion, to the conquest of real liberty which will only be possible when there are no longer either exploiters or exploited. 3. The class which can really bring this struggle to an end is the working class. We have nothing to lose but our chains. Freedom can only be established by this class which, together with all exploited people, will overthrow the bourgeoisie and build a genuine democracy. 4. We appeal for support from the whole of this class, from country people, too ... and from all truly progressive people. Comrades, at Timex as in other places just now, a further step is being taken in this great advance of the exploited people of our country. We call your attention to this situation. And we appeal for A DAY'S WAGES FOR THE WORKERS ON STRIKE Through this we can show that we know what solidarity means, and how to defend the just struggle of the exploited, in deeds and not just in words. A coordinating committee will wage the campaign. It will be based on the Timex factory and will consist of members of the Timex Workers' Committee. It will be supported by the Union of Jewellers, Watch-makers and Related Trades in Lisbon. Certified collecting sheets will be handed out. To overcome the great difficulties of the moment these will bear the white seal of the Jewellers' Union. They can be got from our factory or at the address of the Union (Travessa da Gl6ria no.18, 30, Lisbon) between 9 am and 6 pm. Note: This campaign, although organised by the workers of Timex, is not only to support the Timex workers. It is to support all workers who might find themselves in a similar situation. Timex workers, May 27,1974.

The Sogantal story was different. The firm made gloves and textiles. The French-owned factory in Montijo was occupied by its 48 workers demanding increased wages, shorter hours and paid holidays. The management refused. They also refused to pay for time lost through the strike. The workers' answer was to carry on working and to sell the clothes themselves. A committee of five was elected to consult with the Costumers' Union in Lisbon. A worker describes the strike:

'In the office was a French director and a Mr Guilherme who is a Portuguese. But this Portuguese director was not with us. He was on the boss's side. The factory told the papers that they had made 400,000 escudos profit. Really it was about S times that amount, because they always have these false accounts which nobody knows about. In the factory there was a great deal of stock. if we could sell some of it we could easily pay all the debts of the factory. But then the factory would have to close, as French capital was threatening to withdraw from Portugal. We didn't want that. We felt capable of running the factory ourselves. We didn't need the management. All we needed were people with more knowledge than us, but who would be on our side. We had ideas about exporting suits and clothes. In Portugal it would have been impossible to sell them all, since we made 800 per day. For all of us this was our first strike.'

There were many similar cases in the private sector. One of the great deficiencies was the lack of a national organisation capable of coordinating these struggles, something which the workers of Timex were striving to achieve. Some of the unions helped though on the whole they were being taken over by the Communist Party and were advising against 'adventurous' actions of this kind. The unions were themselves in turmoil because the workers had begun to by-pass them.

Side by side with the private companies there were others, part private and part state-owned, such as the Portuguese Airlines Company (TAP) and the transport organisation (Carris). Here, ad hoc Committees had been set up which called for the expulsion of the previous managers. 'Administrative Councils' composed of members of management and workers took over the running of some enterprises. Members of the armed forces took part in some of these Councils.

Totally public enterprises included the hospitals and Post Office.A member of the armed forces, often a major or high-ranking officer, usually took over the management.

A steady flow of criticism came from the Maoists who savagely and continuously attacked the Provisional Government (and in particular the PCP members taking part in it). Luta Popular carried an article in which the director of the paper, Saldanha Sanches, called on soldiers to disobey their officers if asked to do something repressive. On June 7 he was arrested and imprisoned. Saldanha Sanches had spent 8 years of his life in prison and was serving a 10 year sentence at the time of his liberation on April 26. He was taken to the military prison in Elvas in the north of the country.

A demonstration against his imprisonment was organised by the MRPP and supported by all the left groups. The communique spoke &f the increasing repression, not only against Saldanha Sanches but also of 'ideological repression and sabotage of strikes, a sabotage of the workers' struggle which was everyday getting worse. Anti-strike laws were being prepared .... There was daily censorship of information in the papers, on the radio and on TV. And above all there was the criminal continuation of the colonial war.'

This demonstration was supported by some 10,000 people. The following week Saldanha Sanches was let out of prison for a day, to attend the funeral of a comrade killed in a road accident. Most people thought this decision of the MFA very fair. Few questioned the original imprisonment.

Alvaro Cunhal, the leader of the PCP was saying that 'the great reforms would only appear after the elections'. Meanwhile the Maoists were giving out leaflets calling on the workers to pay no attention to what they called his 'revisionism. But the maoist phenomenon had no real support among the working class. Most Maoists were seen as the sons of wealthy middle class families, able to go to university. They were generally considered not 'serious'. Seriousness was taken as one of the most important working class virtues. Cunhal concentrated on projecting his image as the 'serious' leader of the workers. The message was simple. 'The standard of living in Portugal was the worst in Europe. A great percentage of our people live in conditions which are truly miserable. We defend the right to strike. But we are against striking for the sake of striking. We are against the strike as the first and immediate form of struggle, against strikes under-taken not in the interests of the workers,but, just to create difficulties for the Provisional Government

The PCP gave no support whatsoever to various strikes like Timex or Sogantal - or to the bitterly fought dispute at the Mabor tyre factory (see Appendix 8). In fact it actually denounced them as 'harmful'. Apart from one or two places the Maoists had little implantation in industry. But on the streets they were a considerable force. The Provisional Government was not allowed to forget them.

On June 14 the prisons burst into activity. A group of prisoners at Limoeiro (where about 1300 inmates were awaiting the decision of the government to grant them an amnesty) decided to go on hunger strike. The terms of the amnesty had already been decided but the legal machinery to implement it had not yet been created. The amnesty granted all prisoners who had completed more than half their sentence the right to leave prison, and halved all other sentences. About 4000 prisoners (253 of them women) were affected. These prisoners had been waiting since April 25th and were understandably anxious.

As the Limoeiro prisoners started their hunger strike various sit-down protests took place in the yards. Two other prisons, Custoias and Matosinhos, also had disturbances. Some prisoners appeared on the roof with banners proclaiming 'We too are victims of fascism. Down with fascism'. The government decided to speed up the whole procedure.

A change of mood was increasingly noticeable in the government. The newspapers were tightening up and the radio and television were no longer so open as they had been. 'Limite', one of the best radio programmes, was banned. The bosses were also tightening the screws, and beginning to speak up. Building companies were complaining about the freezing of rents. Various capitalist parties were saying that the country was beading for economic ruin. While the first preoccupation of the authorities had been to maintain discipline and proper chains of command within the armed forces, the second was to 'stabilise' the situation in industry. For this they had to deal with the more militant sections of the working class, who still wanted a minimum monthly wage of 6000 escudos. The MFA accepted the inevitable confrontation and the Post Office workers, who could not seriously disrupt industrial production, were taken on as the scapegoat.

On June 17, 25000 CTT workers went on strike,, paralysing almost all postal and telephone services 95 throughout the country except those to hospitals and fire stations. Wages were the main issue but there were other grievances: the structure of the service, understaffing, taxes (see Appendix 9 for details of the CTT manifesto The government offered 4300 escudos and said it was the maximum it would concede. The Strike Committee appealed to the public: 'We are on strike because we want to better the lives of CTT workers, and to better the service. Indirectly the strike will help you, the users. We ask for your understanding and Solidarity. The greater your support, the shorter the strike will be'.

During the CTT strike the bakers (mainly small shop-keepers) also decided to call a strike. They were seeking permission to raise the price of bread. The strike, very unpopular, was called a bosses' strike. Its effect was to create a certain uneasiness about the strike weapon itself, which the authorities ruthlessly exploited.

The Communist Party attacked the CTT strike as 'irresponsible'. Intersindical refused to have anything to do with it. The demands were 'impossible' - the CTT workers were 'attempting to become a privileged group at th expense of the mass of the population'. The strike, the PCP said, was being undertaken for the sake of striking and did not have the support of the people. This last point was partly true. One of the reasons the CTT workers gave for ending their action was that certain of their members had experienced physical threats from PCP workers. The postal strike was the first large-scale confrontation between the government and an organised group of workers. It was supported by Al the revolutionary groups, although not a ways wholeheartedly.Directe Lisboa published on its front page the declaration and advice given by MES. 'While talk of "privileged workers" and "impossible demands" was nonsense', they said 'we consider that the form of the strike, given the nature of the company, was not the most appropriate. To continue providing a service, but without charge, would not only have built up tremendous pressures against the company but would also have broken the isolation of the CTT workers and ensured popular support. MES nevertheless support this strike because the decision to wage it was taken by the workers themselves'.

The point made by MES was important. People disliked the CTT strike just as they disliked the strike of the bakers. 'We have freedom now', they said 'but we have no bread and we can't post a letter'. During the strike the Army had made preparations to take over the Post Office. Marvao and Anjos, two Army cadets, had refused to obey an order, which they considered of a strike-breaking nature. They were immediately imprisoned. Various left-wing groups called a demonstration on July 9 in their support. The Army first advised people not to attend, then surrounded the area where the meeting was due to take place. No one was allowed near the great roundabout of the Marques de Pombal. The demonstration had to be abandoned.

The Army had also been used during June to break up the strike at Timex and to ensure that the property and stock were kept in the factory. There was little doubt, by the end of the month, that the Junta would countenance no action which seriously challenged the rights of property. The writing was on the wall. Only the politically myopic could fail to read it.


June 10, Portugal's national day, was a repeat performance of May 1st. Hundreds of thousands demonstrated in support of the Armed Forces, wearing cravos (red carnations). The Junta showed its hand a little more. The Democratic Plastic Artists organised a festival in their newly taken over Museum of Folk Art. The group had been opposed to the old regime and had performed a 'happening soon after the 25th, wrapping up the statue of Salazar in black plastic coating. Their festival was to give rise to a significant military intervention.

The RTP (national TV network) had decided to 98 broadcast the entire proceedings. It was to be one of the greatest experiments ever in live television. Forty eight artists, one for each year of fascism, contributed to a so-called 'collective' painting. (Unfortunately it turned out to be no more than 48 separate paintings, on the same canvas. Only one of the artists was intelligent enough to allow some children present to do his painting for him. The others - perhaps with an eye on their reputation - were careful to sign their efforts.) During the festival various cultural and musical groups put on live entertainment. The themes were obviously political. Some contributions were not particularly original. For instance some Communist Party supporters marched through the hall in front of the cameras shouting 'PCP, PCP!'. One group, carrying the coffin of fascism draped in a swastika, marched towards the Tagus which ran alongside the Museum and dropped the coffin into the river.

The theatre group Comuna, which had often been harrassed by PIDE, put on a piece about Cardinal Cerejeira who had been closely implicated with Salazar and Toma's. The message was anti-Catholic Church as well as anti-fascist. A few minutes before midnight an order was given 'by higher authority' for the broadcasting of the show to cease immediately.

Viewers immediately realised what was happening when an American film was suddenly put on right in the middle of the show. The late news said; 'Honourable spectators, the programme which we were transmitting directly from the Spring Fair was suspended because of higher orders. The TV workers who are certainly not provocateurs cannot agree with this decision. We consider it to be against the programme of the MFA. As a protest we are resuming live broadcasting from the Spring Fair, for a token five seconds.

The decision to shut down the live broadcast had been taken by a Major and by the ex-director of I>Republica (the evening paper) who between them were responsible for the Ministry for Social Communications. TV workers promptly occupied the broadcasting station. At a mass meeting they resolved to remain firm in their mission of 'informing and creating public opinion, in the spirit of the programme of the MEA A high-ranking officer was later to call the whole episode a storm in a tea-cup. But it was obvious that criticism by groups like Comuna, which was too near the bone, would not be tolerated.

When the 48 painters were doing their collective painting at the Mercado do Povo (at the time the live TV broadcast was closed down) an incident occurred which showed the ambiguity of popular attitudes to culture. A foreign friend, a little tipsy from a litre of wine, walked up to the unfinished canvases and proceeded to paint on one of them that hadn't yet been started. 'All art is dead' he wrote. Pandemonium. 'CIA', 'Fascist', the artists screamed, and attacked him so vigorously that he had to take to his heels. Stones rained down on him. 'You've never been in Caxias' they shouted, irrelevantly. We barely rescued him from the angry painters. A leaflet attempted to explain the outrageous' act. '...The artists who met, all 48 of them, following a little coup and a dash of revolutionary baptism, managed through the help of Jorge de Brito to set up rather a large canvas. Enough paint was bought for everyone. They designed little carnations, obviously red. On the Day of the Race (June 10) and in the Market of April, at 3 pm, the artists turned over on the grill, mixing their greens and reds (the national colours), these being the only hues allowed. After completion, the canvas would obviously be exhibited abroad, probably every two years. The recipe for an artist is to serve him dead.(MRAI)

The statement, in a sense, was too bald, too difficult to understand by those present. 'Artistic' freedom, like so many other freedoms, had never been known in Portugal. Artists whose pictures from Angola and Mozambique had been shown had had their exhibitions closed down by the PIDE. Although 'freedom' was the touch-stone of everything, the various ideological freedoms were hardly touched upon. When some 400 people (cinema workers, usherettes, etc.) demonstrated for higher pay in June 1974 one of their demands was 'an end to a culture of nonsense'. They didn't explain precisely what they meant by this. Possibly a wish for an end to obscurantism.

The MFA were caught up in this contradiction. They had abolished the censorship boards. Pornography flooded the market place, competing for space on the news stands alongside the political newspapers. Together, they were everywhere.

The cultural revolution however never went very deep. There is a story that Gulbenkian, the oil millionaire, liked to live in Portugal because the workers always raised their hats to him as he passed in his car. A personal friend of Salazar, he gave millions to set up an international foundation devoted to the arts, with headquarters in Lisbon. Many avant-garde artists held exhibitions. Among the chief patrons were people like Jorge de Brito, owner of the Portuguese International Bank.

The Gulbenkian was occupied by its workers in July 1974. They called for a saneamento. A Committee of Struggle was set up, comprising a number of MES militants. The management refused to alter anything, claiming that real decisions in relation to the foundation had to be made in London, that the Gulbenkian was not a public company, and so on. The place was occupied. Hundreds of young militants poured into the building and organised a 'weekend party'. Despite large banners proclaiming 'Art in the Service of the People' no attempts were made to discuss art or culture and there was little creativity on the site itself. Even the posters (constantly reminding one not to put out cigarette butts on the plush carpets) lacked imagination.There were security pickets everywhere. The MES committe(Which included the art critic Joao Bernard de Costa) even laid a wreath on the grave of old man Gulbenkian (the anniversary of whose death coincided with the occupation).


There was no doubt as to which class the Prime Minister, Palma Carlos, represented. The same went for Sa Carneiro (Minister without Portfolio) and Vieira de Almeida (Minister for Economic Coordination). Both had been important officials of the old regime. Vieira de Almeida had also been a managing director of Sonap, the petrol company, and vice-president of a large tuso-French bank. Both 54 Carneiro and Palma Carlos were well known in the business world through their practices as lawyers. The present Minister of the Interior, himself an ex-member of the previous government, had been the director of OGE, an organisation set up byCaetano to advise big business. The ruling class had reshuffled its cards, little more.

The Confederation of Portuguese Industry (CIP), which represented about 70% of businesses, published a communique warning that the working class onslaught was 'dangerous to the national economy'. They supported the programme of the MFA and called for a Western-type democracy 'as the fundamental guarantee of individual liberties . They stressed the following points:

1. Immediate measures had to be taken to overcome the crisis. 2. Portuguese industry had a weak image abroad, which didn't promote investment. 3. Companies represented three balanced forces: consumers, investors and workers. The loss of this equilibrium would lead to economic ruin. 4. .The first task confronting the CIP was to tackle the economic underdevelopment of the country. 5. Private enterprise must be maintained..

Cunhal accused the monopolies of organising against the new regime. 'The reaction continues to organise politically and socially, but above all economically' he said. 'Although man y fascists were in prison, many others were still in their old positions'. Meanwhile the struggle of the workers continued relentlessly. The government's response was to introduce a whole series of measures aimed at building up a strong capitalist base in the country. The wave of strikes had threatened the position of many small companies. The Minister for Economic Affairs introduced a bill giving 500 million escudos to small and middle-sized companies. Companies employing many workers were given more, so they could pay the minimum wages and meet some of the demands of 'their' workers. Construction and transport companies were the main beneficiaries. The measures received support from all sides of the government and from many redundant workers. The latter organised a large demonstration in Porto and another in Braga, in the north, to protest against closures and sackings.

The coalition was subjected to tremendous strains, especially on the industrial front. The country was much more to the left than its rulers, which explains why the PCP (up to its eyebrows in government) seemed so conservative and reactionary. Real offensives were now also being mounted from the political right and from the business circles it represented.. The double pressures on Soares and Cunhal must have been enormous.

Divisions within the Provisional Government began to appear over such issues as the monopolies and over the question of the colonies. Jorge Campinos, a member of the Portuguese delegation to the peace talks with the PAIGC, in Algeria, said that the Socialists would resign if the peace talks broke down. There were simultaneous threats of right-wing resignations if the 'right to strike' was not qualified. The Junta, rather naively, criticised members of the government for acting like politicians. Party considerations should give way to national ones, said Spinola, or the coalition would collapse. But party considerations were 'coming first' because the interests of 'the nation' were not one, as Spinola and others would have had people believe. People applauded Spinola's sp&eches calling for a 'great nation' - and then quietly proceeded to work in their own interest.

The question of the control of TV provoked one of the longest sessions in the parliamentary history of Portugal. It was of course the position of the Junta which was finally adopted, but in these critical times the Junta was reluctant to take decisions in isolation. It needed the support of the politicians just as much as the politicians needed the Junta. AdmiralRo sa Coutinho, a member of the Junta, put the key issue in classical state capitalist terms: 'Television is the most important means of communication in terms of its impact; it enters every home and is seen simultaneously by millions of people.

Therefore it must be state-run, giving out information which belongs to the nation. As it is a state body it must obey the rules of the state, decided by the constitutional powers'.

The Socialists disagreed with the decision, judging it arbitrary and hasty. They would fight against all forms of censorship, they said, offering their solidarity to the TV workers The PCP maintained its customary silence, though Cunhal said in Porto that the Catholic population 'had to be respected'. The PPD defended the decision to set up a military body which would decide the policy and orientation of the TV network.

Early in July news broke of a serious crisis within the government. At first it was thought that the Socialists and Communists were resigning, but it slowly became clear that it was the right wing who were planning to leave unless certain of their demands were met. The Prime Minister, four other Ministers and two Secretaries of State were demanding a) that the powers of the Prime Minister be expanded; b) that the date of the elections (March 1975) be brought forward; and c) that a referendum about a new constitution be held before the end of October. If these three demands we're not met the Prime Minister would resign and the others would do likewise in solidarity.

The Junta considered a partial acceptance of the first point. After meetings with various political groups and with certain representatives of the Armed Forces, it became clear that a head-on collision was imminent. The left countered with an attack on Palma Carlos. It warned of a plot to replace him with an even more right-wing Prime Minister. For four days the country was without an active government. Palma Carlos, interviewed as to why he was resigning, told the interviewer to 'go and ask Russia' - a remark that was a political analysis in itself. Once the conflict of interests was shown to be insoluble, the selection of a new Prime Minister became the main task. The PPD said that they would continue to work within a coalition, thereby leaving Palma Carlos out on a limb. Spinola met with various members of the 'Movement of the Captains'.

Analysing the events Expresso said that July 9 (the day the crisis became public) was the result of April 26. By this it meant that the fierce class struggle unleashed on the morrow of the coup had eventually overtaken the government installed by the Junta. The crisis also revealed certain things that had not been clear in the previous three months. The 'Movement of the captains' still existed, still played an important political role, and was still pressing for 'democratisation'.

Who therefore was in power? Obviously the owners and managers of the firms and factories were in control in any real terms. But they were subjected to enormous pressures from the workers, who had suddenly burst into political awareness and were studying and discussing hawkishly their every move. At the level of politics this struggle led to heated arguments concerning the inter-pretation of the Programme of the MFA. The programme had been drafted so as to mean all things to all men.But the class struggle allywed no such ambiguities. The definition of words became a political struggle -and led to an impasse. As Dr Quaresmo Neto, Personnel Manager of the Seguros Tagus Insurance Company - who had just read one of Trotsky's essays on dual power -very aptly put it: 'We have a government that can't govern, a management without the power to manage, and workers who won't work.

Three months after the coup, the situation in Portugal was fluid in the extreme. In many respects. it had not changed at all. The vast majority of the population continued as they had always done. Men went out to work in the morning and gathered in the tascas in the evening. Women stayed at home. Working conditions and social habits appeared to have altered but little.

But such an estimate would not do justice to the new feelings and emotions which had invaded people's lives. No matter the final outcome, the climate of political awareness had been changed. The men in the tascas discussed polities daily. The women, hanging their washing from their verandas, were forming political opinions of their own. Little discussion and action groups were organising everywhere. For many there had been a pay increase. This was of real value as prices were still frozen.

Some were much worse off. Bourgeois elements were making less profit. They were less secure than before and were subject to the saneamentos launched against them by various workers' groups. But many workers were also worse off. The minimum wage was only applicable to businesses employing 6 or more persons. To get round this many employers had resorted to sackings, thereby reducing the number on their books to below that figure. For the great majority, however, the situation had improved.

What had happened had certainly been a political revolution. A new section of the ruling class had assumed power, who saw its interests better served by modern bourgeois democracy than by old-style fascism. The new from a dictatorship of the aristocracy (linked to a weak rulers dreamt of changing the basis of the power structure bourgeoisie) to the type of dictatorship exercised by modern industrial states. In the upheaval the working class sought to seize what it could. In July 1974 two main questions confronted the powers that be. How much would the workers ask for? And how little could they be given.

The peculiarity of the Portuguese situation was the disaffection from the old regime of large sections of the armed forces. Caetano's attempts at 'liberalisation' had been ineffectual and had come too late. By extending the colonial war he had aggravated the situation. He had lost the respect of his own troops. They had rebelled and by so doing had thrown Portuguese society into deep turmoil.

Here indeed was the essence of the whole scenario. By definition no coup or putsch could be 'democratic'. Neither, of course, could any coup bring about a socialrevolution. The whole concept of the revolutionary role of the MFA (peddled by almost all the left groups after September 1974) was profoundly mystifying. At best the MFA might prepare the conditions for bourgeois democracy. But in doing so it would have to unleash other forces, for years repressed. The working class, however, was numerically weak and had not yet gained the confidence or capacity to carry other classes with it.

The MFA had two choices. They could withdraw and allow the bourgeoisie to resume the reins of power, after having ensured that it understood the need to continue to reorganise and modernise itself. Or the MFA could remain in power itsel{ taking over large areas of government and social organisation and seeking to cope with the problems involved (which were those of a class-divided society confronted with the tasks of industrialisation). But this would mean a role very different from the classical 'bonapartist' role attributed to armies in times of social stress. The Armed Forces would need to create a whole network of new economic and political institutions and would thereby become the embryo of a new state capitalism.

In neither case could the MFA remain neutral', as hoped for by the political parties. The whole notion of a 'neutral' MFA, above the class struggle, was either demagogy or illusion. Given the international context a socialist revolution would prove difficult without tremendous internal and external opposition. But a viable bourgeois democracy was not on the cards, at least for the present. The armed forces remained in power, policing the contradictions they had unleashed and leaving the question of social revolution (which is the business of classes) unanswered.