On April 25, 1974, 45 years ago, a military uprising unleashed the Portuguese Revolution, the last to date in Western Europe.
By Juan P.
The military uprising was led by a section of the army that opposed the continuation of the colonial war. At that time, Portugal sustained Angola, Mozambique and other countries as colonies, at the cost of prolonging a war against liberation movements of African countries, which consumed a large part of the national budget and filled the metropolis with young soldiers killed or mutilated.
The movement began when the already historic song “Grândola, vila morena” was broadcast. The military called again and again to the population to remain calm in their homes, but the popular uprising was already a fact. After 48 years of Salazar dictatorship, hundreds of thousands of people occupied the streets, mingling with the rebellious soldiers, giving them carnations.
The Revolution began.
Ongoing revolutionary process
After the fall of the dictatorship, a military government of the Movimento das Forças Armadas (MFA), the protagonist of the uprising, was formed. In the heat of the Revolution, broad democratic freedoms were conquered: the dreaded political police were dissolved (PIDE), labor parties were legalized, etc … The workers’ and popular mobilization was noticeable in all spheres of society. Neighbor assemblies addressed the problems of neighborhoods and towns, day laborers occupied lands, workers’ committees emerged … even the troops were organized democratically and assembled.
From the military government these movements were viewed with suspicion. They wanted to end colonial war in order to dominate otherwise (by economic ties), the African countries. But they had opened the pandora’s box of the Revolution, which endangered not only their government, but capitalism itself. Proof of the instability of the moment, is that from April 25, 1974 to November 25, 1976, there were 6 different provisional governments. In that period a “transition to socialism” was officially declared , banks and strategic industry were nationalized (70% of GDP came to be in public hands).
If the military finally succeeded in containing the situation, it was especially thanks to the help provided by the Socialist Party (PS) and the Communist Party (PC). In January 1975, our international managed to found a young revolutionary party, the PRT. From the PRT we proposed to convene a national congress of workers, neighborhood and soldiers committees. That congress would be an expression of workers’ and people’s power, and it should choose and control a new government that would satisfy the economic and democratic demands that were at stake. That would definatelly be a government of transition to socialism.
However, the policy of PS and PC was opposed by the vertex to what our comrades proposed. They wanted to help the military and bourgeois power to maintain themselves, as long as they were integrated into government positions. The PS was linked to the German social democracy, an integral part of European capitalism. The PC to the Kremlin bureaucracy, which by that time was already a social caste similar to the bourgeoisie itself. The revolution frightened PS and PC just as much as military commanders, and the Portuguese bourgeoisie.
On November 25, 1975, sectors of the MFA, supported by the PS and the PC, orchestrated a military operation that aimed to end the double power in the armed forces. It is the first blow to the revolution, guaranteeing greater stability for the bourgeoisie, which is going to initiate a process of democratic reaction.
Influence on Spain
The Portuguese Revolution influence played a key role in the Spanish transition process. The death of the dictator Franco takes place in the midst of the Revolution, and in Spain there was also a very strong worker and popular rise. Franco’s officials understood that if they did not make a move, another revolution here was inevitable. Therefore, to avoid a revolution from below, they launched a policy of controlled reform from above. That policy was the Spanish Transition, and also here the PSOE and the PCE collaborated decisively so that everything could be left “tied and well tied”.