Speech: Portugal 1974-75 - a revolution derailed (Text and Audio)

This is a transcript of a speech given by Jorge Martín at the 2013 World School of the International Marxist Tendency. He deals with the events of the Portuguese revolution, its inner dynamics and how it was derailed along bourgeois democratic lines.

This is the first time we’ve had a discussion on the Portuguese Revolution at an international event. This is very bad. Because although the Portuguese Revolution was part of the end of a revolutionary wave which affected many European countries, it is clear that the Portuguese Revolution is the one that went furthest, in which private property rights were threatened most severely. Above all, the one in which the state apparatus was furthest disintegrated. There are many lessons to be drawn from the Portuguese Revolution.

If you analyze in detail the very short period of time April 1974–November 1975, you will see a pattern emerging of revolution, counterrevolution, coups, and counter-coups which follow closely the stages which every revolution goes though.

Portugal’s backwardness

In fact, a detailed analysis of the Portuguese revolution will help us understand what is happening today in Greece or in Egypt. Any genuine revolution proceeds through a series of stages which are very similar from one to another.

Portugal is a relatively small country. For most of the 20th century it was one of the most backward countries in Europe. Although it shared its backwardness with Spain and Greece, the ruling class in Portugal was extremely backward. It had never really carried out a proper bourgeois revolution. The interests of the bankers and industrialists were closely linked to the interests of the aristocracy and landowners.

There was only a short period of bourgeois democracy between the proclamation of the Republic in 1910 and the military coup of 1926. In this short period of time, there were 26 different governments, 4 attempted coups. It was an extremely turbulent period, which revealed that there was no real social basis for bourgeois democracy in a backward country like Portugal at the time.

In order to establish a bourgeois democracy with certain social base, the ruling class would have had to implement a series of reforms to solidify the masses’ support for such a regime. Very quickly, the class conflict couldn’t be contained within bourgeois democracy. This led to the fascist coup which established a dictatorship from 1926–74.

The Stado Novo—“the new state”—had all the formal features of fascism. It was modeled on Mussolini’s Italy, but Fascism in Portugal never managed to build a mass base among the petty bourgeoisie. You could say that this was a Bonapartist regime with the external form of Fascism.

The main factor was extreme backwardness of Portuguese capitalism and society in general.

The main tasks of the bourgeois revolution could not be solved. One important task was the agrarian reform. Even by the 1960s to 70s there was still a huge concentration of land in a small number of landed estates. It is calculated that 1,000 landowners controlled 30% of the land, which was the same amount as the holdings of 600,000 small peasant landowners. The structure of landed property was to play an important role in the revolution and also in its defeat. While most of the South has massive landed estates with many agricultural workers, in the North there were a lot of small landowners.

The agricultural workers in the South were to play an extremely revolutionary role; the small landowners in the North were to play a reactionary role.

The second main problem of the bourgeois revolution was the colonial question. Portugal had inherited a large colonial empire. In the 1970s it still had several large colonies in Africa: mainly Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau. The interests of the ruling class were closely linked to the maintenance of the colonies. The colonial question distorted the role of the Portuguese army. For such a small country, with only 8 million people, there was a massively inflated army with an inflated officer corps. There was a lot of corruption and privileges within the military hierarchy.

The last remaining question of the bourgeois revolution which was left unsolved in Portugal was the question of the modernization of the country: the establishment of proper democratic forms of government, modernization of industry, development of infrastructure.

When I talk about backwardness—you have to understand that on the eve of the revolution Portugal had infant mortality rate of 8.5% The ruling class, under the dictatorship in the 1950s, made attempts to modernize the country. Similar to what happened in Spain, they followed a policy of protectionism which was accompanied by state promotion of certain key strategic industries.

They were benefitted by the low wages which were the result of no labor rights or union rights. Portugal had joined the EFTA, a predecessor of the EU, under favorable terms. This meant that they could export cheap labour commodities (textiles, etc) to the rest of Europe, but for many years there were still trade barriers for European goods coming in, and Portugal kept the monopoly of trade with its colonies.

There was also the immigration of many Portuguese workers to the rest of Europe. 1.5–2 million people emigrated out of Portugal, out of a total population of 8 million. This provided an escape valve, and was also a source of income as emigrant Portuguese workers sent money back to family inside the country, allowing them to survive. This was a feature that also existed in Spain.

The economic policies of the dictatorship managed to develop the country to a certain extent, establishing some heavy industries. But in reality this benefited mainly 7 large families that were firmly linked to the dictatorship. Although there was an economic boom, for 1960–73 the economy grew at average rate of 6.7%, but this gave rise to a massive concentration of capital. 7 banking groups controlled 83% of all banking deposits and assets. 0.4% of industrial companies controlled 53% of all capital, and 16% of industries controlled 75% of production. There had been, accompanying the boom, a massive process of migration from the countryside to the cities. This was similar to Spain and Italy, and had similar revolutionary effects.

Their living standards in the cities were better than in the countryside, but conditions still weren’t very good. Large shantytowns developed on the edge of major cities. In Lisbon, 150,000 people were living in shanty towns. There was the development of a massive and powerful working class. It was a fresh working class without any traditions.

In 1970 there were 1 million industrial workers. Workers in industry and services represented 58% of the active population. You had another 300,000 agricultural laborers in the South.

By 1973, when the first simultaneous international crisis of capitalism after the second world war took place—which hit Portugal severely—the conditions for revolution in Portugal had already accumulated.

In the African colonies there was the beginning of a revolutionary guerilla war for national liberation. The state by 1973 was spending 40% of its budget on the colonial war. Starting in 1970 there was a massive wave of strikes. Workers in huge factories began demanding their rights, higher wages, shorter working hours, etc. All the classical conditions for revolution were already present by 1973.

First of all there were serious splits in ruling class on how to proceed. Faced with a rising mobilization of the working class, some said that democratic reforms had to be introduced. Others maintained that repression had to be maintained, otherwise concessions would lead to revolution.

Preconditions for revolution

In this context, there was an army general, Spínola, who wrote a book focusing on the colonial question. They could see that the colonial war was bleeding massive resources out of Portugal and couldn’t be maintained indefinitely. General Spínola was presented by the Stalinists as a democrat and patriot, which was complete nonsense.

1974-revolution1All he advocated in his book was a certain level of formal autonomy to the colonies, within a federation controlled by Portugal. What he was proposing amounted to a cosmetic change in the form, while everything else would remain the same. However, even this mild proposal lead to a massive clash within the regime. This was a high ranking army officer coming out openly and publicly against the regime.

There was also a ferment among the middle class and among white collar sections of the working class. For instance, bank workers played an important role in the revolution. In the 1960s there had already been a series of student protests which reflected this mood of malaise in society among the middle classes.

The regime reacted to the student movement by conscripting students into the army. Because they were university students, many of them became lower ranking officers almost automatically. And as a punishment for their protests, they were sent to the colonies.

Finally, the third condition which was present in Portugal was a large working class which was on the move. Starting in 1969–70 there was a huge wave of offensive strikes, for higher wages in the context of high inflation; a reduction of the working week to 40 hours; paid holidays; and 13 months of pay. These strikes were met by brutal repression from the hated secret police, the PIDE. This didn’t stop the workers from mobilizing.

The struggle was not only economic but also raised political issues; there were demands for democratization of unions and government. In 1970 there was the formation of the Intersindical, a federation of democratic unions which involved at the beginning the metal workers, textile workers, and banking workers. It then spread to all other industries.

From October 1973 up to the revolution there was a huge strike wave, involving hundreds of thousands of workers. The colonial war has worsened, and the Portuguese ruling class witnessed with fear what was happening in Vietnam where the US was being defeated.

At the same time there was the formation of the Movement of the Armed Forces (MFA). This was an organization of officers which involved lower ranking officers as well as high-ranking officers. This had developed in a peculiar way, because the regime introduced a decree which allowed university students drafted into the army to attain officer positions after only 3 months of training in the Academy.

This gave rise to a protest movement in the military, where those that had been fighting in the colonies were left behind when many new people were promoted ahead of them. So, in the beginning it was a corporatist movement, but soon there was a convergence between revolutionary students drafted into the Army and these discontented officers and NCOs.

One of the most important characteristics of any genuine revolution is the split of the bourgeois state along class lines. But in Portugal this split went right to the top and involved officers at all levels.

The profound crisis compelled the army officers to take on an extreme left position. They started from a position of very confused demands. In one year the MFA took the position that bourgeois democracy was useless and that they had to go to socialism.

April 25

On April 25, 1974, early in the morning, a song (Grandola Vila Morena) was broadcast on the radio which signaled the military to move. The military was greeted by tens of thousands of workers and people on the streets. Within 24 hours the whole hated dictatorship had collapsed. There wasn’t a single regiment in the whole army which maintained support for the old regime or put up any serious opposition. Only the hated secret police, the PIDEs, attempted to resist, but most of them went into hiding, and thousands emigrated to Franco’s Spain.

To give an idea, only 4 people were killed on that day. Which proves the point we have made many times, that peaceful revolution is possible because of the enormous strength of the working class in modern capitalist society.

1974-revolution2There were joyous scenes of fraternisation between the population and the soldiers and lower ranking officers, with the workers who had been on strike for months. On May Day, 1974, one million people marched in the streets, with at least 600,000 in Lisbon.

The masses didn’t wait for a new government to be established. There was direct action to carry out their demands. The wave of strikes increased dramatically with economic and democratic demands. Those living in shantytowns created their own democratic organisation, which reached 150,000 members, and started to occupy abandoned buildings. Cinemas in Lisbon were showing The Battleship Potemkin. Domestic workers, a very atomised and exploited section of the class, formed a trade union. Soldiers in barracks started to organise and began to put up demands for better conditions, wages, democratic rights. The revolutionary wind blew through all parts of society, waking up to political activity even the most backward layers.

The ruling class was in panic. They didn’t really have power—the army had carried out the revolution! In the early stages they tried to rely on General Spínola, who to set up a national salvation junta. By May 16 a provisional government was set up. The Communist Party (PCP) and Socialist Party (PS) leaders played a dreadful role in the situation. While Lenin in April 1917, after the February revolution in Russia, advocated no confidence in the provisional government. In Portugal the was very strong and controlled many of the union organisations. But the CP leaders immediately volunteered to be part of the new government. They presented in their speeches and articles that Spínola was a genuine democrat. Instead of calling for an immediate constituent assembly, they advocated that the national salvation government should be established first and that such a government should later on called for a constituent assembly.

There is a prize for the first person in the room that can guess which party did the new Minister of Labor belong to. It was the Communist Party, of course. From the beginning the CP leaders together with the government as a whole started a campaign against strikes. They said that there must be law and order, stop the chaos, stop the unreasonable demands. Even went so far as to say, in the words of general secretary Cunhal, that most of the strikes were the work of fascist provocateurs from the old regime which wanted to create chaos. This didn’t stop the strikes.

In the first months the strikes were very victorious in their struggle winning all their demands. Wage increases averaged 35%. Most workers won a month of paid holidays which they didn’t have before. The government was forced to establish a national minimum wage, which in most cases represented a 100% increase in wages for lower paid workers. This shows how in most cases, important reforms are always won as a byproduct of revolutionary struggle.

Another interesting feature is that because the PCP was strong, the PS (which was in exile before) could only win support among workers by outflanking the CP on the left. So the slogan of the SP in the first months was “Socialist Party, a Marxist Party.” They were even publishing articles by Trotsky in their paper. This attracted very radical layers of young workers and students. In the first congress of the party in November 1974, the left-wing coalition was 40% against the leadership that was already on the left.

The main problem was that leaders of the CP and the SP both had a policy of tail-ending the movement of armed forces, rather than advocating an independent working class policy and winning over the lower ranks of the army to a revolutionary policy. They just followed the MF which itself was divided, with a right wing of mostly higher ranking officers; there was a ‘centre’, moderates who supported the Socialist Party; there was a left wing, the ¡April captains’, which were more closely in contact with the interests of the working class conscripts. This later wing was lead by Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho.

In the month of June, the government issued anti-strike legislation, with the full support of the Communist Party which had 2 ministers in the government, including the party’s general secretary Alvaro Cunhal. The newly established government didn’t stop the strikes. There was a massive strike of the national airline workers, TAP, based on huge strike assemblies. All fascist or reactionary managers and foremen were removed by the workers. This strike even went against the main trade union leaders in the company which had only been elected recently. The workers in the maintenance hangars decided to have a mass meeting, decided that they would have a 40-hour work week and started to put the decision in practice without waiting for anyone’s approval. .

This was being repeated in workplaces throughout the country. There was a big strike at the Lisnave shipyard, which employed 70,000 workers. The workers marched into Lisbon in what was an illegal strike. The government attempted to send the army to stop them, but the soldiers refused, and fraternized with the workers.

The first official policy of the government regarding the colonial question was to organize a referendum in the colonies for autonomy. The CP and SP leaders didn’t object this treacherous policy. By July the government had to announce independence, which in any case was only a recognition of the de facto situation on the ground.

The ruling class was becoming very worried and determined to put an end to the situation. At this point, Spínola attempted a coup. This was, remember, the democratic and patriotic Army general that the CP leaders had been supporting in government. He decided to organize the coup by calling a demonstration of what he called the “silent majority” on September 28. He attempted to mobilize all the backward layers in society to provide a counterbalance to the workers.

September 28 Spínola coup attempt

This provocation provoked a massive response of the workers and further radicalised the revolution. A few days before the demonstration, transport workers announced that they wouldn’t transport any of Spínola’s supporters. On September 27, 1974, the day before the coup, at a demonstration of 100,000 workers, soldiers, and sailors, the main slogan “Portugal will not be the Chile of Europe.” This was one year after the military coup in Chile.

In Lisbon workers erected barricades. The so-called silent majority never materialized, couldn’t physically meet. The radical officers organized a front called the CoPCoN - Political Committee of National Coordination, reflecting the desire of the lower ranking officers to put their stamp on events. They had been betrayed by Spínola and wanted to create their own structures.  The bourgeois state apparatus was not only weakened but was joining en masse the side of the revolution.

After September 10 there was a new wave of factory occupations. Between 400 and 500 factories were put under one form of another of workers’ management or control. In some cases the owners fled the country, in some others they were expelled by the workers when their demands were not being met. Starting in December 1974 there was a movement of land occupations in the South. In February 1975 there was the first national congress of agricultural workers which met under the slogans of “liquidation of the latifundia” and “land to the tiller.”

There was a new government established, composed of the same parties, minus Spínola. The new government proposed an economic plan. It called for nationalization of 51% of strategic industries. The program was tailing the masses, whose demands went much further.

There was a huge movement of unorganized layers into the unions and parties.The CP had only thousands of members before, but quickly had 100,000 members. The Socialist Party, which had only hundreds before, quickly grew to 60,000. There were dozens of smaller Maoist and sectarian groups with thousands of members. The trade unions, which were previously illegal, organized 50% of workers in only 9 months.

February 1975 there was another provocation in which NATO aircraft carriers were stationed off the coast of Portugal. The CIA was extremely active in Portugal. They organized the coup in Chile a year prior, and they weren’t going to allow an important country in the middle of Europe go communist.

This provocation was responded to with a huge demonstration of hundreds of thousand workers in the cities. They were joined by soldiers. I'm not talking about off-duty soldiers; the number 1 light artillery regiment in Lisbon had a mass meeting of soldiers who decided to join the demonstration, arms in hand.

March 1975 second Spinola attempted coup

On March 11 there was yet another attempt at a coup by Spínola, who despite having already organised the September coup was allowed to remain free to continue to conspire. This is like what happened in Venezuela after the April 2002 coup. In this case a small group in the military (Spínola) sent paratroopers against the light artillery regiment in Lisbon, which was a ¡red regiment’. There was confusion and small armed skirmishes, but finally the paratroopers (who were the only layer the coup plotters could rely on) ended up joining the artillery soldiers shouting “we are not fascists”.

A general strike was declared immediately. Spínola had to flee the country. This provocked a further shift to the left around May Day 1975. Bank workers struck and occupied the banks. They put up banners on the entrance of the main headquarters “This bank belongs to the people.” In their National Congress they approved a resolution that said, “The only way to fight against monopoly capitalism is to expropriate the banking sector.”

This was followed by a strike of the insurance workers with the same demand. The government, which had just approved a policy of 51% nationalization, moved on to nationalise the entire banking and insurance sector, which played a key role in the economy.

The MFA organized a national meeting which became known as the “Wild Assembly.” They declared openly that their aim was socialism. Reactionary officers were purged out of the military by the soldiers and lower ranking officers.

But still the fourth element for a successful revolution was missing: there was no revolutionary leadership.

The CP general secretary, Cunhal at a big demonstration on March 16, said, “I’m against the artificial sharpening of social conflicts. The unnecessary new wave of strikes has to be ended. Many of the strikes have been provoked by reactionary elements.” The CP workers were shouting in response: “Out with the PPD we want the NPD.” That is, out with the bourgeois party, and in with another left party.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PPD) was a bourgeois party which changed its name to the Social Democratic Party, and was the only serious bourgeois party. There was another party that was an appendage to the CP, the National Democratic Movement (MPD), which was not part of the government.

As a clear leadership was missing, the MFA was becoming impatient and wanted to play a dominating role. An agreement was signed between the MFA and the political parties to the effect that the government had no power without consulting the Movement of Armed Forces.

On April 25 there were Constituent Assembly elections. As always happens, when it comes to revolutionary action the most advanced elements dominated. Bt when it comes to elections, the vote of an advanced workers, who in strike action can bring behind him thousands of workers, counts as much as the vote of a backward peasant in the North of the country.

The SP received 39%, and by this time its leader Mario Soares had moderated the language of the party and declared that socialism had to be put “back in the draw”. The CP, which was part of the government and opposing strikes, received 12.5%. The MDP, a left party allied to the CP, received just over 4%. The extreme left parties received another 4%. And the MFA which had called for a spoilt ballot managed to get 7.4% for this option.

Even though the Sp had moderated its messages, still its election slogan was: “self management and people’s power,” so people who support it were voting for socialism in one way or another. If you put all these parties together, it means that two thirds voted for socialism.

The PPD (the main bourgeois party) got 26% and the CDS (Right-wing party) received 7.5%

The balance of forces was extremely strong. In the industrial regions the percentage of the Left was even higher. For instance in Lisbon it reached around 80%.

Capitalism finished?

The ruling class was extremely afraid. The Times magazine in Britain published a headline on the front page: “Capitalism Is Finished In Portugal.” This was after the nationalization of the banks. To a certain extent this was true. The capitalist class had largely been expropriated. At that point they changed their tactics. Previously they relied on Spínola and the right wing of the Army; they now decided the only way to prevent revolution was to lean on the leaders of the Socialist Party.

Frank Carlucci, the then US Ambassador to Portugal and CIA agent, had a meeting with Kissinger and he was told that Mario Soares, leader of SP, was “the only game in town”. In his memoirs, Carlucci explains how Kissinger was enraged by this suggestion. But Carlucci was right, the only way to stop revolution in those extremely unfavourable conditions was counter revolution in democratic form.

They promoted the division of the working class between Communist and Socialist workers. There was a mass of politically inexperienced workers in the mass organizations. There had been 50 years of military dictatorship and therefore the issue of democracy as very sensitive. The right wing and the leaders of the SP started a campaign saying that the CP was undemocratic, wanted to establish a Stalinist regime like in Russia, that they were against freedom of expression, etc.

The CP fell right into the trap. Their leaders were closely aligned with the Soviet Union. Instead of advocating workers power, they were tail-ending the army officers. The army officers were taking more positions against bourgeois democracy and said so openly in their statements. But what was their alternative? Their alternative was a military government. Yes, a left military government, but this didn’t appeal to the broad masses.

On May Day, there were two separate demonstrations, with clashes between Communist and Socialist workers. The SP used an incident around La República newspaper. What had happened after the revolution was that the media workers had taken over newspapers and radio stations and put them at the service of left wing organisation. La República had a Socialist Party director, but the workers did not agree with his line and expelled him. SP leaders made a big deal about this as an infringement on freedom of speech, etc and accused the CP leaders of being behind this move. The truth was that the CP had nothing to do with CP, it was the workers on their own.

By this time there was the beginning of a full-blown reactionary mobilisation. There were about half a million Portuguese people who had returned from the colonies and were a bulwark of reaction. The small peasants in the North were mobilized by the Catholic Church.

At the same time the economic situation was one of complete crisis and chaos. The 1973–74 recession had completely disorganized Portugal’s economy. Under conditions of high inflation and mass unemployment, the workers tried to respond to this with occupations and workers management. For large sections of the population the situation was one of chaos, disorganisation, etc. from which there seemed to be no solution. There was a complete lack of revolutionary leadership showing the way forward. The workers’ parties were split and fighting each other. The ultra lefts were fighting the main workers’ parties, and they had some support amongst certain layers of workers in Lisbon.

The Socialist Party presented itself as the party of order. “Confidence, work, discipline.” They described the strikes as anarcho-populist excesses.

Meanwhile, the CP leaders had an alliance with the MFA without any independent working class position. The MFA said they wanted “peoples’ power” and “the abolition of bourgeois state”. They were still army officers, with no idea of how to pursue a united front policy to win over the ranks of the SP ranks. They used military means to implement their aims.

There were many elements of dual power, in the army too. Massive land occupations, 100,000 hectares of land were occupied. Workers commissions were exercising workers’ control. But they were not coordinated at any level.

On July 10, 1975, the SP abandoned the government over the issue of La República newspaper, creating a government crisis. The SP decided to call for a mass demonstration, known as the Fonte Luminosa demonstration. In the North and other parts there were terrorist attacks against CP supporters and offices. And it was at this time that the SP leaders were basically calling an anti-Communist demonstration.

The demonstration gathered a few hundred thousand people. The attempts of workers to stop this demonstration with a general strike and barricades didn’t have the necessary support or strength to stop the demonstration. This was the first clear indication that sections of the workers were starting to withdraw from active participation. Seeing that there was no clear leadership, it seemed the revolution had only resulted in crisis, chaos, and economic collapse.

But the revolution was by no means finished. In July there was a big split inside the armed forces movement. The moderate elements organized the AMI. But the revolutionary soldiers which had been mobilizing set up their own union, United Soldiers Will Win (SUV).

In July the artillery regiment in Lisbon changed its morning pledge to the flag. “We soldiers swear to be loyal to the motherland and to struggle for its liberty and independence. We swear to be always on the side of the people at the service of the working class, of the peasants, of all working people. We swear to struggle with all our strength by accepting revolutionary discipline against fascism, against imperialism, for democracy, for peoples’ power, for the victory of the socialist revolution.” Not a bad oath to take in the morning when you raise the flag! (see partial video here)

There were armed demonstrations of the soldiers in Lisbon, Porto and other cities. In Coimbra, this was the biggest demonstration in the history of the city, led by the soldiers, but with the participation of the workers. In Lisbon the armed soldiers, organised by the SUV, marched to the jail and entered to release four of their arrested members. In the Fuerte de Almada garrison the local captains warned that if there was another reactionary government they would arm the population.

There was another incident related to the Catholic radio station, which had been taken over by the workers. The government ordered the radio station to be given back to the church. The workers refused. The governor ordered the broadcasting antenna to be blown up with dynamite. When the government commission went to get some dynamite from the Lisbon Arsenal they were arrested by the soldiers. Interrogated, they were asked, “Why do you need dynamite, what is it for?” and when they found out they refused to obey the order.

In October there was a 50,000 strong demonstration in Coimbra which marked the beginning of a new wave of strikes. On November 12, 100,000 construction workers marched in Lisbon and surrounded the Constituent Assembly. The SP and the right wing were talking about moving the National Assembly to Oporto in the middle of a reactionary area.

When the government tried to use troops against the construction workers, the soldiers fraternized with the construction workers, and jointly ate sardines and drank wine outside of the National Assembly.

There was another demonstration in Lisbon the middle of November, of 300,000 people. This was not called by the CP, but by the workers’ commissions.The main slogan was: “Forward, forward towards peoples’ power.” The problem was: the most advanced elements had become impatient at the slow pace of development, but didn’t have the support of the majority of the working class at that point. They were moving ahead of the class. They did have the support of a section of the soldiers, but most importantly they lacked a leadership that should have done two things:

1. Put all the elements together, to move from elements of dual power at the local level to the national organisation of dual power;

2. Followed a consistent policy of patiently explaining that only workers’ power could solve the problems the country faced.

Advanced layers move ahead of the class

Lacking this, they were engaged in vanguardism. This is a phase that all revolutions go through. The advanced guard feels that the revolution is slipping from their hands and takes action, but isn’t followed by the masses. Like the July Days in 1917 Russia, May Days in Barcelona in 1937. The CP leaders played a treacherous role. At the same time that they were inside the government, until November 1975, they were also outside mobilizing against the government. Their main line was to follow the MFA.

This situation was resolved in the crucial juncture on November 25th. In the middle of huge confusion, the government removed Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, the most radical MFA leader, from his commanding position. Confusion ensued among lower ranking officers, the red regiments did not know what to do. The more conservative army units were sent against the more radical ones. Some people said that this was a CP-organised takeover. Many people were against the idea of the CP taking over. Workers went to the Fuerte de Almada barracks to get arms, but there were none to be had.

In general, the mass of workers remained passive. The CP was removed from the government and this started a slow and protracted process of counterrevolution in a democratic form.

The regime had emerged after November 25 still called itself a revolutionary government. It could not immediately privatise the banks. It took months to reestablish discipline within military. But they were able to carry out the main task at that time: to take on the left wing elements among the armed forces, arresting many of them. And thus, the movement was left completely without leadership.

The SP supported counterrevolution, and the CP was paralyzed. The strength of the working class required the counterrevolution to be done in a democratic form.

New elections took place in 1976 where Mario Soares, the SP leader, won.

April 25 continues to be national holiday officially celebrated in Portugal. Many of the traditions of April still exist to this day, but they have remained for over 35 years buried under the surface. Now they are reemerging.

On September 26 last year (2012) there was a huge demonstration, which was bigger than any demonstration in Portugal’s history, against the Troika and against austerity. The banner at the front read: “O povo é quem mais ordena” (The people rule) Which are lyrics from the song which marked the beginning of the Portuguese revolution. At the end of the demonstration the huge crowd of perhaps one million sang that song.

There have been movements within the armed forces, with strikes, demonstrations, rallies. At one point they issued a statement: “Loyalty of the army is to the people. If the government attempts to use the army against the people they will take the side of the people.”

I think that the Portuguese Revolution is worth studying in detail, and I would say that the main conclusion that can be drawn from it is the question of the crucial role of leadership. All the other conditions for revolution were present. The situation was more favorable than in Russia in 1917: the strength of the working class; big sections of bourgeois army going over to the side of socialist revolution. The only thing missing was the existence of revolutionary leadership, but this proved crucial.

This allowed the situation to go extremely to the left at one time and in an apparently surprising development, for the counterrevolution to set in without firing one shot. This reveals that a revolutionary leadership can not be improvised in the heat of events, but must be prepared in advance. An important part of that preparation is to study the lessons of past revolutions.

August 2013

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