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25 de Abril-A Carnation Revolution

Margaret Resendes Peek

25 de Abril (April 25) A Profound Revolution

The Infamous 25 de April, also known as the Carnation Revolution of Portugal, is described as a revolution that overturned the longest dictatorship in Europe. The story of how this revolution overturned an authoritarian government and ended fascism in Portugal, is an important one. And given how this revolution was fought and won with barely any violence, the story is a profound one as well.

1910-1926 The First Republic

The Portuguese Republican Party (Partido Repúblicano Português--PRP) was Portugal's first political party in the modern sense of the term.  But modern doesn’t mean successful and it didn’t stay unified.  The country experienced a splitting and flip-flopping of moderates, radicals, unionists, evolutionists.  Over the course of fifteen years, there were seven elections for congress, eight for the presidency and forty-five for various governments.  The instability the country withstood is indescribable.  This political turmoil led to several periods of military rule during the First Republic and eventually led to its overthrow.  While this was a huge mess for the country, it was by no means the ugliest. Portugal was still holding on to its African colonies. At a time when the country was still reeling internally from so much political unrest, in 1916 Portugal’s Prime Minister sent over 40,000 men to fight on the side of the Allies.  

Salazar’s Climb from Professor to Portugal’s Ruthless Leader 

Portugal’s problems lived on.  In addition to severe food shortages and less than 75 percent of the war indemnity paid by Germany to Portugal, Portugal’s misery was far from over and political instability continued.  By 1926, the first republic was officially ended and a military regime attempted to stabilize the country.  But the fight of balance between pro- and antimonarchists and pro- and anticlerical officers was counterproductive and in the end,  António de Oliveira Salazar, a professor of political economy at the University of Coimbra, was named as minister of finance on April 27, 1928. 

Salazar overshadowed military prime ministers and gained the allegiance of Portugal's young intellectuals and high ranking military officers, who identified with his authoritarian, antiliberal, anti-communist view of the world. Moreover, Salazar's ascendancy was welcomed by the church, which saw in him a savior from the anticlericalism of the First Republic. And of course, he was also welcomed by the upper classes of landowners, businessmen, and bankers, who were grateful for his success in stabilizing the economy after the financial crisis of the First Republic. 

Salazar's career advanced him to the point where he was head of government. He exercised executive and legislative functions, controlled local administration, police, and patronage, and was the leader of the National Union (União Nacional--UN), an umbrella group for supporters of the regime and the only legal political organization.

Portugal in the Salazar Era of Leadership

Politics in Salazar's Portugal consisted of balancing power blocs within the country—the church, military, business and commerce, colonial interests, and landholders.  All political parties were banned.  Salazar’s leadership was named Estado Novo (New State).  Although the regime indulged in rallies,  it was satisfied to direct public enthusiasm into "fado, Fátima, and football". A devout Roman Catholic, Salazar sought a rapprochement with the church in Portugal.

While  Salazar had an exceptional grasp of the techniques of fiscal management and created a program of economic recovery,  the bulk of the Portuguese remained among the poorest people in Europe. The austerity that Salazar's fiscal and economic policies demanded weighed most heavily on the backs of the working class and the rural poor.  Outside the cities, traditional patterns of life persisted.  

Caetano’s Slogan of “Continuous Evolution”  

In 1968, Salazar suffered a stroke at the age of 79.  He was followed by what was originally thought to be a different type of leader.  Marcello Jóse das Neves Caetano was considered a moderate within the political regime of the times. Things were maintained in a structured authoritarian regime which was greatly favored because real power was maintained by President Admiral Américo Tómaz and the pro-Salazar "Ultras". Inflation reached 15 percent and the country continued to feel the effects of severe oppression.  Portugal also continued to fight an unpopular colonial war in Africa which meant that Portugal faced increasing dissent by the international community. 

25 de Abril Was the Ending of a Quiet Boil 

On April 25, 1974, the Carnation Revolution was bravely fought by people who had been suffering long before the forces they fought against that year.  You see, the institutions of the corporate state had never settled themselves in the Portuguese soil for over 50 years!  Their apathy should never have been mistaken for support of the authoritarian ruling. Two developments set forward the Carnation Revolution.   The first occurred in mid-1973 when career army officers became alienated by a government measure commissioning militia officers for service in the colonial wars. The second incitement was the publication in February 1974 of the book Portugal e o futuro (“Portugal and the Future”) authored by the colonial war hero General António de Spínola. Spínola argued that the wars in Africa could not be settled by force of arms and advocated negotiated autonomy for the colonies and an alternative to Caetano’s leadership. Between 200 to 300 officers calling themselves the Armed Forces Movement (Movimento das Forças Armadas; MFA), were led by Francisco da Costa Gomes.  And so it was that the coup of April 25, 1974, which became known as the Carnation Revolution, was planned and implemented.

 

The Carnation Revolution Started with Music 

The operation plan for the Carnation Revolution was beautifully orchestrated.  During the night of April 24th, 1974, the song E Depois do Adeus (After the Farewell) was broadcasted as a signal to the coup to mobilize.  The second signal came at 12:20 a.m. April 25th, 1974, with the of Grândola, Vila Morena.  This song tells of a fraternity among the people of the Grândola and was played as a signal confirming the order to mobilize.  Soldiers for the movement spread throughout the streets.  In twenty-four hours, a decades-old dictatorship was collapsed.  It is reported that the people, despite warnings to stay indoors, took to the streets along with the soldiers.  Flower vendors handed out seasonal blooms to the soldiers during the near-bloodless uprising.  Soldiers were seen putting carnations in their guns hence the “Carnation Revolution”. It became known as one of the most original revolutions of the 20th century and, to Portugal,  remains a source of immense pride.  

From Your Friends at Rooster Camisa, Happy 25th de Abril! 

 

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