Forty-five years ago Portugal’s dictatorship collapsed when a military coup unleashed a revolutionary tide of mass working class action. After 50 years of brutal repression, the Portuguese people burst onto the streets. The future of capitalism was in the balance as workers took over factories and land. MANNY THAIN looks back at these tumultuous events. Originally published in April 2004 in Issue 82 of Socialism Today, theoretical jorunal of the Socialist Party (CWI in England and Wales).

IT TOOK ONE day to overturn half-a-century of fascist rule in Portugal. Thursday, 25 April 1974. At 12.25am the signal was given: the rebel song, Grandola, Vila Morena, by Zeca Afonso, played on Rádio Renascença. Captain Salgueira da Maia left Santarém (50 miles north-east of Lisbon) with eight armoured cars and ten trucks, moved on the capital. Other divisions under the command of the Movimento das Forças Armadas (MFA – the Armed Forces Movement, radicalised mid-rank officers, typically captains) were mobilised. The 5th Infantry Regiment took Rádio Clube Português, transmitting the first MFA communiqué at 5.30. It appealed to police and troops to stay in barracks.

Prime minister, Marcello Caetano, sought refuge at the Carmo barracks, which housed the Guarda Nacional Repúblicana (GNR, the regime’s praetorian guard). En route to Carmo, Maia’s detachment was confronted by tanks from the 7th Calvary Division under Brigadier Reis. After a stand-off, however, Reis’s men went over to the side of the coup. Workers and youth came out on the streets in their thousands.

Key installations were secured: military headquarters occupied, airport closed, leading ministers arrested. Troops sealed off access to Lisbon and secured the second city, Porto. The only resistance came from the hated secret police, the Direcção Geral de Segurança (DGS, still known by its original name, PIDE), besieged by angry crowds at their headquarters. Several protesters were shot by DGS agents in their futile last stand.

At 8pm the MFA announced that the regime had been deposed. Caetano, refusing to surrender to anyone under the rank of general, handed power over to General António de Spínola. Caetano fled to Madeira, with President Américo Tomás close behind. A month later they were granted political asylum by the military dictatorship in Brazil.

The streets thronged with people. Although no one knew what the MFA intended to do – it had no clear long-term strategy itself – the yoke of totalitarianism had been lifted. A practically bloodless coup had brought down Europe’s oldest dictatorship. It was festival time. MFA armoured vehicles were mobbed by adoring crowds. Thousands of school students marched into the city centre, shouting ‘Down with fascism’. Red carnations, which became the symbol of the unfolding revolution, blossomed in rifle barrels, and flooded the streets in the hands of joyous crowds. This was the ‘joyful revolution’, the ‘revolution of flowers’.

Caetano’s regime had seen its social support steadily erode. Fascist rule had been consolidated in the early 1930s by António Salazar. The preceding two decades of social and political upheaval, and worldwide economic depression, made Salazar’s promise of stability attractive to some sections, providing a social base for his policies, especially among landowners, colonialists and some sections of the middle classes.

Caetano took over in 1968. It was a ‘corporate republic’ with a handful of rich families controlling the financial/industrial conglomerates, ensconced behind protectionist walls. Acção Nacional Popular (ANP), the state fascist party, was the only political organisation permitted, alongside its youth wing. Paramilitary groups terrorised left-wing and industrial militants. Independent trade unions and the right to strike were illegal. PIDE (Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado) was backed up by a massive network of agents and part-time informers. Torture was systemic. The revolution blew the PIDE/DGS vaults wide open: armaments, torture implements, instruction manuals, sadistic photos, files on informers, close links with the CIA.

Regime in crisis

PORTUGAL WAS A colonial power and a satellite of Western imperialism. It held strategic and valuable territories, above all in Africa: Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé e Principe, and Cabo Verde. The plantations and mines generated enormous wealth for a section of the ruling class. But Portugal had an isolated and backward economy centred mainly on the export of sardines, textiles, cork, wood and wine. Manufacturing was dominated by foreign-owned corporations. The economy was in hock to other imperialist countries, particularly Britain.

1961 saw the launch of the armed Angolan liberation struggle, followed by Guinea-Bissau (1963) and Mozambique (1964). Portugal had no hope of winning these wars, and this desperate position made the brutal repression of the liberation movements all the more severe. There were major atrocities, including the massacre at Wiriyamu, Mozambique, where 400 villagers were slaughtered.

The wars were a massive drain on Portugal’s beleaguered economy, consuming over 40% of the budget. At the time of the coup, 160,000 out of a total of 220,000 troops were stuck in the Africa quagmire. Desertion and draft-dodging gathered pace. Mass emigration from Portugal to Western Europe and Brazil led to a decline in the population from 1960-70. While individuals in the ruling class grew rich from the colonies, the big landed estates in southern Portugal were neglected. And the small-scale farming typical in the north was inefficient. By April 1974, agricultural productivity was one-third of the average in Western Europe and Portugal was its poorest country. The economic crisis was exacerbated by the oil shock of 1973, which helped trigger a worldwide recession.

Workers continued to fight the system. Illegal trade unions operated. The Partido Comunista Português (PCP), founded in 1921, maintained a clandestine organisation. Student protest flared up intermittently, particularly in November 1968 and January 1971. In July 1971, bank workers in Lisbon and Porto fought running battles with riot police after the arrest of their leader, Daniel Cabrita. In 1973, 40 major strikes were recorded, including in foreign-owned businesses such as Plessey, British Leyland, Grundig and ITT. Preparations were under way for the first civil service strike, on 1 May 1974 (but by then May Day was a public holiday).

These pressures impacted on the ruling elite, with splits developing over how to deal with them. The strict limits of cosmetic or short-lived measures to ‘liberalise’ the regime were shown when an independent trade union federation, Intersindical, was set up in October 1970. It was initially tolerated, then banned in June 1971 after it campaigned for full trade union rights and sought recognition from the International Labour Organisation. The trade unions involved had their leaderships purged and compliant yes-men put in their places. Intersindical went underground.

Finally, it was the wars in Africa and the armed forces which delivered the fatal blow to the regime. And, in spite of his impeccable fascist credentials, General Spínola played a role in its demise. He had fought for General Francisco Franco in the 1930s Spanish civil war, and with Adolf Hitler’s armies on the Russian front in the second world war. He was commander-in-chief in Guinea-Bissau for five years. Typically for a leading army officer in the corporate state, he was tied in with big business as a director of Companhia União Fabril, Portugal’s largest conglomerate (which dominated Guinea-Bissau’s economy), and Champalimaud, a steel and banking giant, also with extensive interests in Africa.

In February 1974, Spínola published a book, Portugal and the Future. He realised that military victory was impossible and raised the need for a managed release of direct colonial power, with Portuguese influence maintained behind the scenes. In a speech in 1970, however, Caetano stated what was at stake for the regime: “Africa is more than an area which must be exploited. Without Africa, we would be a small nation; with Africa we are a big power”. Spínola’s plan was rejected.

The MFA had been created from the erosion of Portugal’s prestige in the world and demoralisation from fighting expensive and unwinnable wars against people fighting for freedom. In addition, the middle ranks had been downgraded by panic measures to fast-track officers to fill gaping holes in recruitment.

On 15-16 March, junior officers in the 5th Infantry Regiment based at Caldas da Rainha (50 miles north of Lisbon), took higher ranks captive. Under threat of bombing, they surrendered. With 200 officers arrested, the MFA moved quickly to avoid any further clampdown. The week of 22 April was chosen by Otelo de Carvalho, the main organiser of the coup.

The revolution unfolds

ON 26 APRIL, the MFA announced that a ‘junta of national salvation’ would rule until a provisional civil government was formed, with elections within a year. The ANP, DGS and other state agencies would be disbanded. It declared freedom of association and expression, an amnesty for political prisoners and the independence of the judiciary.

It was vaguely pro-working class, talking of an economic policy “at the service of the Portuguese people, notably those sectors of the population until now the most under-privileged”. But it did not put forward any concrete proposals. It said that “the solution to the overseas wars is political and not military”, and aimed for “a policy leading to peace in the overseas territories”.

The pronouncements on the colonies reflected the differences between Spínola and most of those in the MFA. This time, Spínola succeeded in removing any reference to the right of self-determination. The junior officers recognised that the wars were unwinnable, and that other imperialist powers, such as Britain and France, had been forced out of their colonies. As part of their counter-insurgency training, they read the works of Mao Zedong, Ché Guevara and Carlos Marighella (Brazilian proponent of urban guerrilla warfare in the late 1960s). Many were already influenced by Marxist ideas before coming into contact with liberation fighters in Africa itself.

The MFA reflected a wide range of political views. The lefts, including Carvalho and Vasco Gonçalves, were strongly influenced by socialist and Stalinist ideas, looking to Eastern Europe, Cuba or Algeria for a model. Others, such as Melo Antunes, were reformists, linked with the social democrats around Mário Soares.

The workers had many accounts to settle. Having suffered at the hands of bosses and landowners linked to the fascist regime for the best part of 50 years, they took the initiative in driving them out of the factories and off the land. The editor of Portugal’s main daily newspaper, Diário de Notícias, for example, was forced out on 7 June after the printers seized the presses, publishing a front-page article exposing his fascist connections.

Instinctively, workers were also attempting to maximise this opportunity to fight for their rights and improvements in pay and conditions. All sections of society were caught up in the revolutionary fervour. Students at Lisbon university refused to take entrance exams, which they considered a fascist method of selection. A meeting of 500 Catholics in Porto denounced the cooperation of the Catholic church with the old regime and called for the resignation of all bishops.

Homeless people seized empty properties. Offices were used for workers’ campaigns and community centres, and schools were established. On 15 May, 8,000 Lisnave shipyard workers went on strike for a 50% pay rise. Car workers won a 40-hour week. Bakery and textile workers struck. Train and tram conductors employed tactics developed under the fascist regime. Instead of striking, they refused to collect fares. Lisbon underground workers won a 50% increase.

Spínola became president on 15 May, forming a coalition which included politicians with ties to the old regime – including the newly-formed conservative Partido Popular Democrático (PPD, led by Francisco Sá Carneiro) – alongside members of the PCP, Partido Socialista (PS) and the Movimento Democrático Português (MDP/CDE linked with the PCP).

Capitalists looked in horror at developments in Portugal. Seeing the PCP in the government of a Nato country petrified the imperialist powers. They feared that they were witnessing the formation of a ‘communist’ state – in a Western European country. However, their room for manoeuvre was limited. The strength of the revolutionary movement left a very limited base for reaction. The US was paralysed by the ‘Vietnam Syndrome’, having pulled out in 1973, and the international economic crisis made immediate action more difficult.

Communists & Socialists

IN AN ATTEMPT to turn back the revolutionary tide, Spínola leant on the PS and the PCP, making Avelino Gonçalves labour minister. The inclusion of political parties which were either emerging from decades of clandestine activity or were being built from scratch added a new dimension to the revolution and the often fraught relations between the MFA, junta and the parties themselves.

Mário Soares, PS leader, returned to Portugal from exile in Paris on 28 April. He was a lawyer, funded by the social democratic Second International (and the CIA), well-known in Portugal thanks to BBC Foreign Service broadcasts. Álvaro Cunhal, PCP leader, got back on 30 April after 14 years in exile in Eastern Europe. He had been sentenced to ten years in prison in 1959 but had escaped. Almost as soon as they arrived back, these leaders found themselves sharing power.

Both parties saw explosive growth after the coup, as did a number of far-left groups. PS membership rose from a mere 200 in April to 20,000 by September, and 60,000 in early 1975. The PCP was in a dominant position in the Intersindical trade union federation, giving it a strong base among industrial workers. Its other stronghold was with agricultural workers in the south. PS support was weighted more among white-collar workers and professional grades, and in the intelligentsia.

Although ideally placed, the PCP leaders did not use their influence to develop independent mass action by the working class towards socialism. They relied on their influence with the MFA left, exerted in meetings behind closed doors. Leaders like Cunhal based themselves on the methods of the Soviet Union’s ruling bureaucracy, not on mass action by the workers. The PCP sat alongside Spínola in cabinet as he manoeuvred for power with the aim, ultimately, of derailing the revolution. The reason Spínola could not move decisively was because of the overwhelming public support for the MFA – the deliverers of freedom – and the spur this had given to working class militancy. The PCP leaders’ perspective centred on supporting the MFA left. The working class was mobilised when that support was required, as auxiliaries in the struggle for social change.

The thoroughly Stalinist PCP leadership never had any intention of advocating workers’ control and management of the economy on the basis of a democratic, socialist plan of production and distribution. An international appeal for solidarity from a workers’ state in Portugal would have provided a huge boost to revolutionaries fighting dictatorships in Spain and Greece at the time. It could have been the first step towards the formation of voluntary federations of socialist states.

The radical measures taken by the MFA were in response to the mass movement from below. One of the first was a minimum wage of £55 a month, affecting 65% of the workers. Controls were brought in on prices and house rents. Taxes were increased on higher incomes, under-utilised farmland (especially on big estates in the south), and luxury goods. A thousand leading company directors connected with the old regime were dismissed.

Thirty thousand postal workers struck from 17-21 June. Rail, electricity, shipping, and major industries saw strikes. The PCP leaders did what Communist Parties always do when they find themselves in office – they tried to hold back the working class. They denounced “unrealistic wage demands” and “disruption playing into the hands of reactionary forces”. Its newspaper, Avante, criticised bosses for conceding wage increases which were “too high”!

On 27 July, Spínola reluctantly announced the “immediate recognition” of the right to independence for the African colonies. He demanded greater powers. When the MFA refused, the first provisional government fell. A new prime minister, Brigadier Vasco Gonçalves (for years linked to the PCP), was appointed. A revolutionary guard, Copcon, was established under Carvalho to circumvent the line of command from Spínola.

On the other hand, a new trade union law was brought in on 29 August. While legalising industrial action, it attempted to impose severe restrictions on strikes and occupations. It required a minimum seven days’ notice of a strike (ten in public utilities), and a 30-day negotiation period. Workers had the right to picket but not to occupy. Strikes on religious or political grounds, and solidarity action, were declared illegal. The right of lock-out was accorded where an illegal strike was in progress. On 2 September, in a populist appeal aimed at undermining support for the PCP and bolstering its own position among the working class, the PS condemned the ‘restrictive nature’ of the laws.

This was nothing new. Soares would litter his speeches with calls for the ‘socialist transformation of society’. This was part of his strategy of winning over the radicalised working class, above all from the PCP and far-left. Once the revolutionary heat had cooled, he planned to direct the working and middle classes down a safe, reformist, capitalist road.

In practice, the restrictions were largely ineffectual due to the fraternisation between the troops and workers. However, TAP national airline was put under military control on 28 August after maintenance staff struck. More than 200 workers were later dismissed by the military commander in charge. Lisnave workers struck again on 12 September and marched, illegally, on the ministry of labour. They stated that while they supported all progressive measures they would “actively fight” the strike law because it would undermine workers’ struggle “against capitalist exploitation”.

One of the many remarkable aspects of the Portuguese revolution was the way the working class consistently mobilised to defend the MFA and the gains made. Lacking a revolutionary socialist leadership and so unable to move decisively to secure a genuine, democratic workers’ state, it was often counter-revolutionary reaction which stirred it into action.

To test the balance of power, Spínola called for a demonstration of the (illusory) ‘silent majority’ for 28 September. Rumours circulated of a right-wing coup and training camps in Spain run by former DGS agents. Carvalho was detained by Spínola in an attempt to sabotage Copcon’s plans to deal with potential clashes. This time the workers set up armed roadblocks to stop reactionary groups moving on Lisbon. At midday on the 28th, Spínola called the whole thing off. His support in the armed forces and among working class people was fast evaporating. Right-wing officers and civilians were arrested, and 100 navy and 200 army officers purged.

MFA & political parties

ELECTIONS WERE CALLED for 12 April 1975, eventually taking place on the 25th, with those who held positions in the former regime excluded from voting. The election campaign would stretch the relationship between the MFA and the political parties almost to breaking point. MFA spokesmen frequently used the bitter rivalry between the parties, especially the PCP and the PS, as justification for strengthening their own political role. On 3 April, Commander Correia Jesuino, put it bluntly: “It was the armed forces and not the clandestine political parties nor the intellectuals who made the 25 April revolution… We are the vanguard of that revolution and thus have the right to assume direction of the nation”.

Another battleground was over trade union representation. Since the coup, most trade unions were in the PCP-dominated Intersindical federation, representing two million workers. The PCP and the MFA wanted to set up Intersindical as a single, mandatory federation, and mobilised 100,000 workers in support of that demand on 14 January. The PS, PPD, and Catholic church, wanted a more ‘pluralist’ movement – one they had a better chance of influencing. The proposal was narrowly accepted, but a series of amendments curbed Intersindical’s power.

Another battleground was over trade union representation. Since the coup, most trade unions were in the PCP-dominated Intersindical federation, representing two million workers. The PCP and the MFA wanted to set up Intersindical as a single, mandatory federation, and mobilised 100,000 workers in support of that demand on 14 January. The PS, PPD, and Catholic church, wanted a more ‘pluralist’ movement – one they had a better chance of influencing. The proposal was narrowly accepted, but a series of amendments curbed Intersindical’s power.

There had been setbacks for the PCP in several unions, including losing the leadership in two postal worker elections in Lisbon to opportunist lists of the PS and MRPP (Movimento Reorganizativo do Partido Proletário, a Maoist group), and the União Democrátíca Popular (UDP, a Marxist-Leninist group). Avelino Gonçalves, former labour minister, lost the bank workers’ union election.

Political confrontations were becoming increasingly violent. The first national congress of the right-wing Centro Democrático Social (CDS – based on members of the former regime), in Porto on 25 January, was called off after it was besieged by left-wing protesters, leading to violent clashes with police. Soldiers from nearby barracks sided with the demo. The MRPP attacked a CDS rally and its headquarters in Lisbon. On 7 March, a PPD meeting in the industrial city of Setúbal was broken up. Two protesters were shot dead and 26 injured in clashes with the police. The police station was besieged by workers. PPD offices were destroyed in Beja, in the PCP’s southern stronghold, Alentejo.

On 21 February, a three-year plan proposed a 51% state holding in all major mines, oil and natural gas, steel, electricity, tobacco, and arms manufacture. There were further price controls. It proposed the expropriation of large land holdings.

The plan did not, however, touch the banks, the key to breaking the power of the conglomerates. Workers took the initiative and investigated the Espírito Santo family’s links with the fascist regime. They found that money to provide jobs for troops returning from Africa had been siphoned off as part of an elaborate scheme to safeguard the family’s wealth in the event of nationalisation. The bank was funding the CDS and PPD. Inspectors were placed in all banks to check their operations. But this move was as much to reassure international big business that capitalism was safe, as it was to placate the workers.

Spínola would make one more pathetic bid for power. On 11 March, paratroopers from the Tancos airbase in the Tomar region moved against RAL-1 (one of the most left-wing army units, which played a key role in forming the MFA and in the coup). It was a farce. Troops at Tancos mutinied when they found out that they were being used against other units. Spínola fled.

Immediately, the whole structure of the MFA was dissolved and a Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) set up. It had full legislative powers, absorbing all the previous institutions of state.

The fact that six members of the Espírito Santo family were among many leading industrialists implicated in the coup fiasco enraged bank workers. They occupied the banks, preventing the bosses from removing incriminating documents or transferring funds abroad. They refused to work until the banks were handed over to workers’ committees. On 14 March, it was announced that all Portuguese banks (except agricultural credit institutions) would indeed be nationalised. The next day, the insurance companies went the same way.

The elections would be the first based on universal suffrage in Portugal’s history. More than six million people were eligible to vote. Seven of the twelve parties involved were to the left of the PCP, including ‘Marxist-Leninists’, ‘Maoists’, and ‘Trotskyists’. Only three parties were clearly on the right: PPD, CDS and the monarchist PPM. Such was the strength of the socialist mood that even the PPM had to attempt to be radical, calling for communes headed by a king!

Attempting to undermine support for the PCP and far-left, an assembly of bishops in Fátima (9-12 April) forbade Catholics from voting for parties whose ideology was incompatible with ‘Christian concepts’. It declared against spoiling ballots. MFA leaders had said that they would interpret a significant number of spoiled ballots and abstentions as support for the armed forces.

Over five-and-a-half million people voted, a massive 91.73%, with 6.9% blank or spoiled ballots. The PS gained 37.87% and 115 deputies; PPD 26.38%, 80; PCP 12.53%, 30; CDS 7.65%, 16; MDP-CDE 4.12%, 5; UDP 0.79%, 1. In total, 58.5% had voted for left-wing parties (counting votes for the far-left parties which did not win seats).

PCP support was concentrated in its southern heartlands. In the north it received less than 5%, rising to 15-20% in the industrial areas around Lisbon and Santarém. The PPD stronghold was in the north, while the PS picked up support around the country. The PS would not be allowed to hold the reins of power immediately. On 30 April, the SRC granted official recognition to Intersindical, and at the national May Day rally, Intersindical and PCP members physically blocked Soares from speaking. The following day, the PS organised a 30,000-strong demo against the PCP.

Stalinist models

A SECTION OF MFA leaders around Carvalho was clearly moving towards a left-wing military dictatorship. Before a general assembly of the MFA on 26/7 May, Carvalho said: “Either we build really solid socialism in Portugal using the MFA and the political parties, as long as the parties are able to mobilise the masses, or we abolish the party leaderships and link ourselves directly to the people”.

PCP leaders were putting forward the need for ‘revolutionary defence committees’, looking to Eastern Europe as its model. Carvalho seemed to favour the ‘workers’ revolutionary councils’ set up in Cuba under Fidel Castro. Neither was a call for genuine workers’ democracy. They were intended to mobilise backing, cheerleaders for a military-led Stalinist regime.

There was widespread support for socialist ideas in general, as witnessed by the election results. There was also a deep suspicion of Stalinism. The model provided by the former Soviet Union was not attractive to the working class, especially one which had so recently emerged from totalitarianism, even if on a different economic base. The PS cynically exploited this genuine fear to undermine the PCP.

On 11 July, Soares announced that the PS would withdraw from the government because the SRC had sanctioned the takeover of the PS-oriented República newspaper by Communist print workers. Soares accused the armed forces of attempting to impose a ‘communist-style police state’. On 17 July, the PPD also withdrew. The fourth coalition government was dissolved. A ruling triumvirate of President Francisco de Costa Gomes, Prime Minister Vasco Gonçalves, and Copcon head Carvalho was set up.

Carvalho’s ominous warning at a press conference on 30 July, after a visit to Cuba, gave credibility to Soares’s cynical denunciations: “[It] is becoming impossible to have a socialist revolution by completely peaceful means”, he said. He called the PS “the strongest enemy of the left”: “Sometimes I think it would have been better in April 1974 for us to have put the counter-revolutionaries’ backs against the wall, or ordered them to the bullring in hundreds or thousands”. (Keesing’s Contemporary Archives 1975, 27321)

Right-wing parties were growing in confidence, and regional political differences were being played out. Attacks on PCP and MDP-CDE offices and members intensified in the northern cities of Porto and Bragança, and in Leiria. The MFA pro-Soares wing around Antunes was also emboldened, the instability fuelling demands for ‘order’ to be restored. On 29 August, Vasco Gonçalves was forced to resign as prime minister and was replaced by Admiral José Azevedo. A ‘Group of Nine’, supported by the PS and PPD, emerged as leaders of the MFA. On 19 September, a new cabinet – the sixth – was sworn in, its make up reflecting the election results.

There was increased polarisation in the armed forces. Far-left army groups appeared, for example, Soldados Unidos Vencerão (Soldiers United Will Win), which described itself as a ‘unified anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist front’. Around 1,500 automatic weapons were diverted from the army to left-wing militias. Two companies of military police refused to embark for Angola.

A far-right Portuguese Liberation Army planted bombs around Lisbon. Rumours of coups circulated. On 27 September Copcon stood by as demonstrators, protesting at the Franco regime’s support for far-right forces in Portugal, set fire to the Spanish embassy.

On 13 November, 30,000 construction workers demanding higher wages and the nationalisation of all building sites surrounded the assembly. Again Copcon troops refused to intervene. After a day trapped inside, the government conceded to the workers’ demands.

The rightwing moved. The SRC dismissed Carvalho and suspended Copcon. The government purged PCP members and sympathisers from the ministries. Right-wing groups mobilised farmers who set up barricades on 24 November to try to isolate ‘Red Lisbon’. Next day, troops led by right-wing Lieutenant Colonel António Eanes occupied military bases. A state of emergency was called.

The tide had turned. After 18 months of frenetic revolutionary action, ‘order’ was restored. Such had been the inroads into capitalist rule, however, so deep had been the shock to the system – three quarters of the economy nationalised, and a working class which had shown an almost superhuman capacity for struggle – that the full restoration of untrammelled capitalism had to proceed very cautiously. The weakness of reaction meant that the counter-revolution could not drown the workers’ movement in blood, as it had done in Chile in 1973.

The revolution ended 50 years of brutal dictatorship. That alone is a magnificent achievement, a historical justification. The scale of the movement, however, meant that it could have achieved much more. Had there been a revolutionary party equipped with a developed socialist programme and respected by the working class, a socialist revolution would have been possible. Today, the government is implementing a neo-liberal onslaught against the working class. Portugal’s workers will need to draw on their rich revolutionary traditions to resist these attacks before they are able, one day, to complete the tasks left over from 1974-75.

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