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E. III.2. Portugal, Resisting the Salazar Regime and the 1974 Revolution of the Carnations

Volume One -> E. Resisting Oppressive, Dictatorial, Military or Authoritarian Rule -> E. III. Europe (West) -> E. III.2. Portugal, Resisting the Salazar Regime and the 1974 Revolution of the Carnations

Portugal suffered a military coup in 1926, and in 1932 the military endorsed Antonio de Oliveira Salazar as civilian head of state. Strongly influenced by Mussolini, he presided over a rightwing dictatorial regime embracing his ideology of the ‘New State’. Salazar was officially Prime Minister from 1932 to 1968. The regime suppressed all forms of left wing opposition, relying on the PIDE political police, allowed one political ‘party’, and created official trade unions. Freedom of speech and civil liberties were denied, and strikes banned. The regime held elections for the ceremonial post of President, on a franchise restricted by literacy (over one third of adults were illiterate as late as the 1960s) and property qualifications. However, when General Delgado ran against the official candidate in 1958, this limited opening for dissent was cancelled. In 1968, Salazar was succeeded by Marcello Caetano, who made some moves towards liberalization, but did not change the basic nature of the regime.

There were indications of dissent under Salazar, for example illegal strikes. The banned Communist Party maintained an underground presence, and there were also some manifestations of liberal dissent, but the major, indirect, expression of civilian resistance was mass (usually illegal) emigration in search of jobs and to escape the draft. Ultimately, the clearest signs of opposition emerged within the armed forces in reaction to Portugal’s colonial wars in Africa from 1961, wars that engaged a high proportion of the troops in unwinnable conflicts, and drained the country’s resources. ‘People power’ in Portugal followed the coup of April 1974 which enjoyed immense popular support, expressed by the carnations put in the gun barrels of the soldiers. Portugal entered a period of mass mobilization and expression of radical ideas in 1974-75.

de Figueiredo, Antonio, Fifty Years of Dictatorship, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1975, pp. 261

By journalist and political activist, who supported Delgado in his opposition to Salazar, was imprisoned in Portugal for his resistance to the regime, and campaigned against Portugal’s colonial abuses.

Fernandes, Tiago, Authoritarian Regimes and Democratic Semioppositions: the end of the Portuguese dictatorship (1968-74) in comparative perspective, Working Paper 5-06, Lisboa, Instituto de Ciencias Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa, 2006, pp. 30

Hammond, John L., Building Popular Power: Workers’ and Neighbourhoods’ Movements in the Portuguese Revolution, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1988, pp. 320

Harman, Chris, The Fire Last Time: 1968 and After, [1988], London, Bookmarks, 1998, pp. 410

Chapter 13 ‘Portugal: The Revolution that Wilted’ recounts from a revolutionary socialist perspective the extraordinary ferment of 1974-75, a period of ‘dual power’ between radical workers going on strike and occupying their workplaces and the provisional government, with increasing polarization between left and right.

Mailer, Phil, Portugal: the Impossible Revolution, [1977], London, Merlin Press, 2012, pp. 276

Firsthand account from Irish libertarian socialist, looking beyond parties and discussing agrarian and urban social struggles.

Maxwell, Kenneth, Portugal: The Revolution of the Carnations’, 1974-75, In Roberts; Garton Ash, Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present (A. 1.b. Strategic Theory, Dynamics, Methods and Movements), Oxford, Oxford University Press,

Focuses on 1974-75, and provides more detailed references in both Portuguese and English.

Raby, David L., Fascism and Resistance in Portugal: Communists, Liberals and Military Dissidents in the Opposition to Salazar, 1941-1974, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1988, pp. 288

Analyses various stages of resistance, the role of the Communist Party throughout, of ‘military populism’ in the 1950s, of socialists and dissenting Catholics in the 1960s, and the impact of the colonial wars.

Valera, Raquel, A People's History of the Portuguese Revolution, London, Pluto Press, 2019, pp. 352

This account of the 19 months Revolution of the Carnations, which arose out of the  military coup that overthrew the Portuguese dictatorship in April 1974, stresses that it was a mass popular revolution, not just a change of regime, that involved workers' strikes and widespread  debate and communal organizing. It was also a socialist revolution, which was replaced by liberal democracy. The author is a professor at the new University of Lisbon.