50 years of the last socialist revolution

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By CARLOS HORTMANN*

There was a lot of anti-fascist struggle in Portugal in those years of dictatorship, but on April 25, 1974 it actually began in Africa

“We live with the weight of the past and the seed\ Waiting so many years makes everything more urgent\ and the thirst for waiting only stops in the torrent”
(Sérgio Godinho)

There is no other way to begin this text: there is a before and after April 25, 1974 in the history of Portugal. It is the most important moment in the Portuguese historical-social formation, as it is a process that represented the end of 48 years of dictatorship, the end of the fascist Estado Novo, the end of 13 years of colonial war and above all the end of the last colonial empire. (which lasted almost five centuries). A moment of liberation for the Portuguese working people and also an opportunity to break with this entire past.

The fascist dictator, António Oliveira Salazar, sought to do everything to prevent the avalanche of post-Second World War decolonization and national liberation struggles from reaching the Portuguese colonies, which artificially and legally came to be called, from 1951, of “overseas” territories in Portugal, even put an end to the “Indigenous Statute” – the legal form that socially marked people (indigenous people, assimilated people and white people) and regulated slave and servile labor – racism and segregation in the form of law.

Therefore, 13 years before the 25th of April, the colonial-fascist dictator took the decision to start a long and exhausting war against the people who were fighting against violence, oppression and colonial exploitation and for their liberation by any means necessary. Initially, in Angola in 1961, then in 1963 in Guinea and finally in Mozambique in 1965.

In summary: around 800 men and young men were mobilized for the three theaters of operations (90% of men able to serve in the troops), as well as more than 500 African men were incorporated into the troops, which was called “Africanization” of war; it is estimated that they were 100 thousand civilians killed, 10 thousand Portuguese soldiers and 20 thousand “invalids”; from an economic point of view, Portugal used 40% of its state budget for the war effort; without forgetting, the almost 1 million Portuguese who emigrated to escape dictatorship, poverty and war.

In this context, the soldiers who were on the battlefield, especially the intermediate officers (captains and majors) who commanded the troops, realized that the solution to the “colonial question” was not military, but political. They were the ones who died, losing battles (Guinea and Mozambique) and “taking the blame” for the “losses” of the colonies, therefore, becoming less and less “discredited”.

Allow me to use a figure of speech, “the glass of water overflowed”, when Salazar's successor since 1968, the fascist dictator Marcelo Caetano, with a lack of officers on the battlefield, decided to issue a law-decree (353/73 in June 1973) which allowed the colonial army to place militia officers from the complementary ranks in the military career, that is, without having gone through the Military Academy (professionalization). The “final straw” was that the famous decree allowed militia officers to surpass permanent and professionalized officers in terms of career seniority.

This situation overflowed into a series of protests and exasperation of these intermediate officers of the permanent staff, which was “the beginning of the end of the regime”, as the corporate demands would open the way for an important political subject in the overthrow of fascism, the Movement of Armed Forces Officers (MOFA), which later became known simply as the Armed Forces Movement (MFA) – an organization that flourished, especially, on the battlefields of Guinea.

In the space of eight months and five major plenary sessions, a process of politicization took place. MFA understands that the only way to end the colonial war (today quite “forgotten” in Portugal) would be to overthrow the colonial-fascist regime. In other words, a sector (MFA) of the Armed Forces, one of the pillars of the Salazarist New State (the other was the Catholic Church), decided that “the time had come” to destroy the very regime that they had made last for 48 years ( especially the generals – “rheumatic brigade”). Therefore, this group of intermediate officers, aware that the “colonial solution” was decolonization, applies the final and final blow to the regime that tortured, killed and sent thousands of anti-fascist and communist militants to the Tarrafal concentration camp.

It is necessary to highlight that, in addition to the effective and material strength of the MFA in overthrowing Salazarism, there were many political forces of resistance and struggle against fascism in these 48 years in Portugal. The Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), an organization that had a unique importance, despite being illegal and in hiding, with thousands of militants persecuted, arrested, tortured and killed, never stopped fighting, organizing strikes, demonstrations and the working class itself, denounce the regime's crimes.

In the 1960s, popular sectors of the church emerged, “progressive Catholics” who joined the anti-fascist opposition, as well as communist movements of Trotskyist and Maoist origins (with less social reach). The other decisive political force were the anti-colonial and national liberation movements, which decided to resort to armed insurrection and political struggle within the framework of international relations (especially at the UN).

The anti-colonial movements were heterogeneous and complex, but I would like to highlight the three that will gain greater importance: African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC); Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).

There was a lot of anti-fascist struggle in Portugal during those years of dictatorship, but the 25th of April 1974 actually began in Africa.

* Carlos Hortmann He is a philosopher, historian and musician.


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