The collapse of fascist Portugal was sudden and paradoxical. After forty-six years of authoritarian rule, aborted coups, and quixotic gestures of opposition, a meticulously planned putsch by junior officers deposed the old regime in less than twelve hours. In Lisbon and Oporto, hundreds of thousands of people pouring into the streets welcomed the army as liberators. To head a “junta of national salvation,” the captains called in a general of impeccable fascist credentials who spoke the platitudes of liberalism as if they were revolutionary truths. Remarkably, once in power he did not hesitate to act on them.
António de Spínola has been incomprehensible to a world tired of self-righteous military coteries that claim a monopoly of truth, curtail civil liberties, and sustain their rule by tyranny and torture. A model cavalry officer if ever there was one, he called for open debate and participatory democracy. The Portuguese military in its first decree established freedom of speech and assembly, allowed trade unions to organize, promised elections by universal suffrage, granted immediate amnesty to political prisoners, and dissolved the notoriously brutal political police.
For more than four decades Portuguese politics were the exclusive preserve of dour paternalists upholding a social and political system that was virtually impenetrable to the world outside. Suddenly there were socialists and communists everywhere. Opposition leaders returned like prodigals, escorted into town by deferential soldiers in ill-fitting uniforms carrying rifles that sprouted red carnations. On Wednesday, April 24, propaganda posters in Lisbon depicted happy multiracial bathers on Mozambique’s beaches of “sun and dreams”; by Friday, April 26, walls were adorned with the hammer and sickle. Old liberals were aghast. It was too much, too soon.
A dream had indeed ended. Portugal was the pioneer of European expansion overseas, and although greater and more splendid empires had fallen, Portugal with embarrassing tenacity remained. To other European nations, finished with colonialism and building supermarkets and superhighways, Portugal was an uncomfortable anachronism. It became fashionable to say that Iberia with its archaic regimes and obscurantist philosophies was somehow not European at all, even though for more than two centuries Europe itself was little more than Iberia in the eyes of the rest of the world. But it was the “Europeanness” of the events of April that gave them special significance. The regime that fell, taking its ideology from the 1920s and its institutions and repressive apparatus from the 1930s, embodied much of the recent European past; for above all else, Portugal exaggerated, almost to the point of absurdity, the rationalizations of European imperialism.
In his book Portugal and the Future, published in February of this year, General Spínola demolishes the myths of African empire. For Spínola argues that it is preposterous, paternalistic, and hypocritical to believe that Portugal defends the West and Western civilization in Africa, that it remains there by historical or vocational right, that it possesses a divine mission to civilize more backward mortals. He tries to show in this book that the debilitating military holding operation of the Portuguese army is self-defeating.
Widely read in the literature of insurgency warfare and the liberation movements, a warm admirer of President Leopold Senghor of Senegal, with whom he had met secretly, acutely aware of African society and culture and how to exploit them, Spínola concludes that the key to the struggle is not on the shifting battlefield but in the minds of the population. He argues for a clear recognition of the rights of self-determination, for establishing democratic institutions and accepting majority rule in the colonies. He remains convinced that when the African population assessed their choices they would decide to remain connected with Portugal in some loose federation of autonomous states. He outlines in some detail a possible structure for such a federation.
Spínola returned to Lisbon in September after five years in the fetid swamps of Portuguese Guinea, a land with a population half the size of Lisbon, where the Portuguese expeditionary force of 36,000 men represented one soldier for every fifteen civilians, and which even the great Portuguese monopolists had written off as economically hopeless. Spínola’s plea for new policies is based on hardheaded economic calculations. The future of Portugal he believes lies unequivocally with Europe; the endless war is fatally compromising the chances of raising Portuguese living standards to acceptable European standards. A backward, isolated nation of a little over eight million people which was struggling to industrialize could not go on committing 50 percent of national expenditures to military operations and supporting an army of 210,000. Especially when those called upon to fight had no political voice and the population was more and more estranged from the regime.
It was curious but entirely appropriate that a general, legendary for his bravery in action and armed only with a glinting monocle, white gloves, and a riding crop, should call an end to the age of “heroics.” As he put it, “nations prefer to live prosaically” rather than to disappear in glory.
When his book appeared in Lisbon bookshops in February, Spínola held the second most important post in the Portuguese defense establishment, with general responsibility for the wars in Africa. He was a hero of the regime, the ideal man to state the unstatable. Spínola is now seen as the man who brought down the government of Prime Minister Marcello Caetano. But it is becoming clear that he was first chosen as the perfect conduit for views the Caetano government held but could not publicly espouse. Spínola was, after all, a son of a close associate of the late dictator, Oliveira Salazar, and a volunteer with Franco’s armies during the Spanish Civil War, an observer with the German army outside Leningrad, a former commander of the regime’s praetorian Republican Guard. His book states a position that many army officers, technocrats, and economists both within and outside the government, including Caetano himself, believed might allow Portugal to retake the initiative, back off from untenable positions, and end its diplomatic isolation.
It was a double miscalculation. The opportunist Caetano and the pragmatist Spínola both failed to reckon that myths sometimes take on the power of realities. The far right, who distrusted Caetano anyway, saw at once that the roots of Salazar’s system had been called into question. The old fascists who had created the regime and spent their lives in its service found the liberal and democratic tone of Spínola’s book anathema. Portugal and the Future became a best seller among a public which concluded that no government could welcome popular participation and democratic institutions in Africa while denying them to Portugal. While Spínola’s blunt language made him a hero, it undermined Caetano, whose often promised “liberalizations” and constant retreats from his promises had lost him all credence. Spínola’s book was more than enough to panic the right-wing interests who had always suspected that Salazar’s successor was a liberal sheep in wolf’s clothing.
Scrambling to keep their power, the leaders of the far right brought the fascist state down on their heads. Caetano had called the Portuguese system a “presidency by the prime minister.” Now he found the head of state, seventy-nine-year-old Américo Tomás, threatening to use his legal power to dismiss the government. On March 14, a month after Spínola’s book appeared, Admiral Tomás insisted that Caetano call together Spínola, General Costa Gomes, his superior, and 120 rheumatic and ancient general-rank officers to pledge loyalty to the very myths Spínola had just publicly repudiated. Spínola and Costa Gomes refused and were immediately dismissed. The ultraright did not realize it could not afford an open crisis at the regime’s highest levels. Preoccupation with Africa had all but hidden the degree to which the Caetano years had undermined the props of the Portuguese corporate state.
Dr. Salazar always expressed an extreme dislike for change. When he set up his “New State” in the early Thirties, he deliberately confined Portugal within traditional economic and social patterns. Archaic, isolated, and puritanical, rejecting industrialization as a harbinger of class and labor problems, glorifying a sanitized peasant and folkloric tradition, Salazar’s Portugal was firmly set against the twentieth century. Or perhaps in advance of it, for Salazar was an eco-fascist before his time. The majority of the population remained agricultural. The regime promoted a myth of the family as the primary source of “social harmony.” Salazar himself, his myopic eye on the smallest expenses, pursued what had become a fetish to him, balancing the budget. And for forty years he did balance it. But the human costs of eco-fascism were considerable: Portugal had the highest rates of illiteracy, infant mortality, and infectious diseases in Western Europe, and the lowest per capita income.
The reclusive dictator did not reject everything the modern world offered. He borrowed his labor laws from Mussolini and his police techniques from the Nazis. The political police (PIDE) spread their insidious influence throughout the country, relying on a network of collaborators and spies. No recourse existed against their brutal harassment and propensity for torture. With danger lurking in every political conversation, people became furtive, distrustful, and silent. The Republican Guard (GNR) and the paramilitary security police (PSP) provided uniformed security men for all theaters and other public gathering places. Both groups brutally squelched any public protest. The Portuguese legion, a militia raised to fight for Franco, complete with Roman salutes and green shirts, was the other paramilitary arm of the regime. Avoiding public excess or skillfully hiding it from foreign view, Salazar created a “moderate” terror; it was relentless, vigilant, and devastatingly effective.
Yet Salazar’s system had support from important parts of the population. In the north of Portugal land holdings are exceedingly small and further fragmentation of them was prevented by Salazar’s constitution, which by shoring up the father’s authority gave precedence to the eldest son over the legal claims of the other children; the daughters were often forced by parental dictate to remain celibate, the other sons to emigrate. The constitution of the “New State” fortified the position of the “head” of the family by giving the father sole right to exercise “civic responsibility,” including voting.
Fifty percent of the arable land of Portugal, however, is held by 1 percent of the agricultural holdings. The central and southern provinces (with the exception of the southern coastal region, the Algarve) are dominated by latifundia. These great landowners had joined with bankers in 1925 to form a “Union of Economic Interests” to combat “social subversion.” After the coup of 1926 they became strong supporters of the regime. A small number of interlocking financial and industrial conglomerates were consolidated, most of them under the control of a handful of powerful families; the Melo, Champalimaud, Quina, Queroz Pereira, Espirito Santo. Often these families enjoyed a near monopoly of lucrative markets and privileged access to valued products. The Melo brothers’ CUF (Companhia União Fabril) dominated the economy of Portuguese Guinea, and now controls 70 percent of the tobacco market in Portugal. The Champalimaud family group has a near monopoly of national cement production.
Salazar, who paid little heed to the trappings of office and rarely appeared in public, ruled as president of the council of ministers. The ceremonial position of the head of state he reserved for retired military men. When in 1968 Salazar’s deck chair collapsed, knocking him into a coma from which he never recovered, it fell to Admiral Américo Tomás to replace him. Tomás, a simple but tough-minded follower of Salazar’s, reluctantly appointed Marcello Caetano. But there was a bizarre hiatus until 1970, for the moribund Salazar resolutely refused to die, and Tomás seemed to live in constant agitation that the old man would revive and wonder why he had been removed from office.
Caetano’s appointment was received with some hope; he made a few liberal statements. Several “liberal” deputies, among them Pinto Balsemão, the editor of the dynamic weekly Expresso, were elected to the National Assembly with Caetano’s tacit blessing. A new press law was introduced. A wider variety of books was allowed to be published. Seara Nova, the mildly socialist journal of the intellectual opposition, published increasingly critical social and economic analyses. But at its base the Caetano regime was a change of names not of substance. PIDE became the DGS but the old secret police bureaucracy remained entrenched, and it reverted to the worst of its old techniques when some small revolutionary action groups appeared on the extreme left. Censorship was renamed “previous examination,” but the censors operated from the same offices and discussion of many subjects remained totally prohibited. In the 1973 election the democratic opposition, facing constant harassment, boycotted the polls, as they had done in previous years.
But the real changes were not those of politics. That was the problem. Caetano wanted to combine an ambitious liberal capitalism with extreme political caution; this could not work in a country where institutions had been created to resist capitalism as much as liberalism. The economic crisis came most quickly where it was least expected, where its full impact had been (and still remains) largely ignored—in the countryside. The economic managers in Lisbon, tinkering with the economy without any reliable statistics, dealing with an economic and social system where the real sources of wealth and power were disguised, continued to believe that agriculture would take care of itself. Although the OECD reports on Portugal warned that the economic base of agricultural production was being destroyed, there was little response or corrective action taken in Lisbon. This neglect of agriculture strained to the breaking point one of the principal sources of support for the old system.
The cause was simple. Emigration had become a hemorrhage, while the money sent home by the emigrants hid the social and economic consequences of deserted villages. The conditions of Portuguese workers in France are hardly ideal, but the minimum monthly wage paid in France is more than the wage earned by 92 percent of the Portuguese population at home. Nine hundred thousand Portuguese emigrated between 1960 and 1971, most of them between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five. This means 180 people for every thousand in the north of Portugal, and 135 per thousand in the Algarve region on the southern coast. Those young men who remained faced at least four and sometimes six years of military service. As early as 1960, in 44 percent of Portugal, the birth rate was not replacing the population, and the absence of young males had a catastrophic effect on the rate of males to females. Only Lisbon and Oporto increased in size over the last decade, and the population as a whole declined to about 8,200,000.
As a result, prices rose and food became scarce. Crop yields in Portugal are exceptionally low: wheat yields are half the European average, rye three times lower, barley four times. Extreme labor shortages on the great estates led to lower production rather than mechanization, despite the fact that the great proprietors received agricultural credits and subsidies for cereal production. The emigrants tended to purchase property as an investment, especially in the north and the Algarve, and this took more land out of production while raising its value on a speculative market. Where a year-round cultivation of diversified crops was required, the fields lay barren because of a lack of laborers.
When I traveled through Portugal in the weeks before the coup much of the countryside looked as if it had been visited by the bubonic plague. Whole villages dying, roads deserted and fields abandoned. I saw barely literate graffitti denouncing both the police and high prices on the crumbling walls of shuttered houses; at most intersections there were Republican Guardsmen with carbines and bicycles—not much use against an army but effective enough against old women in lumbering ox carts.
Where the Portuguese had fled, foreigners flocked in. Tourists by the million: Spaniards the most numerous, followed by Americans, British, French, and Germans. Settlers too, new colonists, 10,000 British in the Algarve, harmless older couples for the most part, flotsam of another imperial past unable to adjust to their own wet and disputatious land, seeking docile natives and cheap servants and sun.
Tourism was a mixed blessing, particularly for the quiet fishing villages transformed into backdrops for monstrous hotels. There was sometimes hatred in the eyes of those whose way of life was being transformed, and resentful acceptance of their jobs as chambermaids or waiters. The state lavished public funds on tourist hotels, mainly in the luxury class, many of them owned and operated by foreigners. For the most part the tourists were protected and shut off in sunny bubbles, which filled in summer with large pink northerners, and contracted in winter to receive a few Portuguese.
The very isolation of these tourist bubbles gave them their attraction for the Portuguese trapped in their stultifying and repressed society. Young office workers and bureaucrats would move their entire families into camping sites for the summer, surround themselves with appliances, possessions, and foreigners, and commute to work each day in the city. There was adventure in this, and a certain freedom. It had not been long since a minister of information had banned all mention of campismo as pornographic. Portuguese youth became adept mimics of tourist ways of behaving.
General Spínola spoke with concern in his book of the psychological desertion of middle-class youth. Yet that desertion was only a symptom of a much deeper discontent, of which the exaggerated posturing of the young was the most visible sign. The middle class, largely urban, turned its back on the countryside, rejecting the dominantly rural ethos of the corporate state which had, by its pompous promotion of the brilliant folk culture, music, and art of the Portuguese countryside, succeeded only in suffocating it. Living in indistinguishable apartments stuffed with appalling furniture and plastic chandeliers, their imported cars clogging the short stretches of divided highway and turnpike, the Portuguese middle class desired nothing more than to be “Europeans.”
Those with the right family and business connections or money could always resort to petty corruption and nepotism to mitigate the authoritarianism of the state. But industrialization, the war, and rising prices meant that the small strategies and deals and bribes that kept many middle-class people going were transformed into an intolerable system of speculation and favoritism. The smaller entrepreneurs and family enterprises which had thrived under and been protected by Salazar found themselves under attack from Caetano’s economic ministers who decreed that they were “uneconomic.” Highly capitalized and competitive “modern” businessmen moved into the retail and distribution trades. Government policy in the finance acts of 1971 and 1972 encouraged the concentration and consolidation of enterprises. With both the distribution and supply of goods becoming constricted, the result was outrageous profiteering and hoarding which the state would not even recognize, let alone act against. Many commodities, including codfish, a staple food of the Portuguese, disappeared from shelves.
Most dramatic of all was a change in direction within the oligarchy itself. CUF has grown into a huge conglomerate of over 100 companies. It is the largest enterprise in the Iberian peninsula, and controls one tenth of the corporate capital of Portugal. The old monopolies have ceased to be so important and CUF, like the Champalimaud group, has entered over the past few years into joint enterprises with foreign corporations, shifting or at least complementing its colonial and metropolitan ventures with more profitable investment in Brazil, the US, and Europe. The most successful and visible joint enterprise is the Lisnave shipbuilding and repair complex, where CUF is associated with two Dutch and two Swedish companies. Strategically placed on the main tanker route to Europe, Lisnave has dry dock bookings for ten years and specializes in the construction of bow sections for giant tankers which are completed in Sweden. For Caetano and his economic experts, needless to say, the conglomerates were “well-managed” enterprises and in consequence they got a large share of state aid for investment, preferential tax incentives, and subsidies.
The internationalization of the great conglomerates, however, represented a disintegration of the old alliance between landowners and the financial and industrial interests. Government economists were beginning to criticize not only the small fragmented plots of the peasant proprietors but also the great estates which, with the exception of meat producers, stubbornly refused to improve production techniques. Industrialists were impatient with the inadequate banking and financial setup of the country and the lack of reliable information for economic decision making. They were eager to use the very large Portuguese savings (some 20 percent of GNP in 1972) for investment. Although they did not say much about it in public, they were strongly critical of the war, which was causing serious labor shortages and driving away money needed for expansion and which, by poisoning Portuguese international relations, threatened the chances of Portugal’s entering the European Common Market.
During 1973, as much as 48 percent of Portuguese exports were sent to the EEC, 15 percent to the overseas territories. Forty-five percent of Portugal’s imports came from the EEC; 10 percent from the overseas territories. The industrialists knew that Portugal’s isolation was more a state of mind than an economic reality. General Spínola was their friend. He helped to obtain the national steel monopoly for the Champalimaud group. A CUF subsidiary published his book, in which he argues for large industrial investment, disengagement in Africa, and a European future. To the great economic interests it had nourished, the corporate state of Salazar and Tomás became a positive hindrance.
While Portugal’s politics, economy, and social life had become stifling and unreal, an armed force was still required to make a revolution. The African wars created this force: an increasingly radical army with a divided hierarchy.
As the fighting with the liberation movements in the Portuguese territories entered its second decade, bitter differences emerged among the leading generals. Several of the civil governors and military commanders in Africa were ambitious men who became important public figures in Lisbon. Spínola was one of them but the least typical. In Guinea he had dealt mostly with black Africans and Portuguese business interests. The proconsuls further south in Mozambique and Angola, men like Luz Cunha, Silverio Marquez, Kaulza de Arriaga, governed territories with white settler populations, close diplomatic and military connections with South Africa and Rhodesia, and large economic resources exploited increasingly since the 1960s by foreign multinational corporations.
Kaulza de Arriaga, while governor of Mozambique, was also a board member of Petrangol, a subsidiary of the Belgian Petrofina corporation, though this was not announced by the company because it would have been “indiscreet.” His published views on the African war and Portugal’s position closely reflected the official South African and Rhodesian positions; they expressed in extreme form many of the ideas Spínola later criticized in his book. Late in 1973 Kaulza de Arriaga was involved in a plot to overthrow Caetano and substitute a more reliable candidate of the right, either Dr. Franco Nogueiro, a Lisbon banker and former Salazar foreign minister, or Dr. Adriano Moreira, a former overseas minister now an executive officer with Standard Electric, the Portuguese subsidiary of ITT. When this failed, Kaulza de Arriaga became a frequent visitor of Admiral Tomás; his brother-in-law Luz Cunha was appointed to replace Costa Gomes as defense chief of staff.
At the lower end of the officer corps the captains had in 1973 organized to obtain better pay and working conditions; but the deep frustration with the war and the internal strains it had created within the army soon forced the “armed forces movement” to become more political. When the fighting in Africa became more intense in late 1973, these younger officers had to bear much of the burden. Ever since the first uprisings in Angola, the army had difficulty attracting young men into the military academy, and had to rely on conscripts for its junior officers (milicianos). Many of them were former university students who since the early 1960s had suffered more than most from the repressive policies of the regime. These civilian soldiers, their careers, marriages, and professional prospects severely compromised by lengthy military service, showed even less enthusiasm for combat than the conscripts they commanded. Yet although they became unreliable in military action, with 160,000 men in the field in Africa the army could hardly function without them.
The burden of combat fell mainly on a relatively small and diminishing generation of regulars, some facing their fifth two-year tour of duty overseas. A program to allow milicianos to take up permanent commissions was therefore a particular affront to these men; nor was it welcomed by the milicianos themselves, for whom it was simply a device to extend even further their period of compulsory service. The situation was not helped by a bloated and incompetent general officer corps left over from less trying times who spent more time arranging favors for relatives or improving their fortunes than on serious military business.
Spínola’s book and particularly his ouster disturbed the captains deeply. The general had a high reputation among them for honesty and leadership. His views in many ways reflected their own. Their experience in Mozambique, especially in early 1974, served to incite them. Three facts seemed clear.
First, the Portuguese army was holding the frontier for the white supremacist regimes to the west and south, regimes whose philosophy was abhorrent to the ideals they were supposed to be defending and whose leaders patronized them in public and despised them in private.
Second, they were fighting so that economic resources could be exploited by foreign multinationals whose only loyalty was to those who held power and promised stability.
Third, they were protecting white colonists who turned on them with violence and bitterness.
The analysis was surprising only in that it was made by career army officers. And that it was an ironic consequence of their study of the French and American “counterinsurgency” experience in officer-training courses. For this experience suggested that what the US with its vast resources and manpower could not achieve in Vietnam, or France in Algeria, Portugal would find quite impossible in Africa. And the works of Mao, Giap, and the African liberation movements could after all provide some analysis of the reasons why. There was the fear of defeat too; or, as Spínola called it, of “amputation” on the model of Goa, from which the Portuguese had been driven by Nehru’s army. The army had then been publicly pilloried for the loss and its officers court-martialed and cashiered. Equally worrying were those signs of atrophy and breakdown, which were again epitomized in Mozambique and foreshadowed by Vietnam: marijuana and massacre.
With President Tomás and his ultraright allies in control, the captains realized that they would soon have to act. The dangers of delay were unmistakable. A steady stream of well-known reactionaries paid court daily at Tomás’s rose-walled palace. His photographs grew larger in the newspapers as Caetano’s shrank. On March 17 there was a premature uprising by the garrison of Caldas da Rainha. The purge of opposition elements in the army that had been going on for months now became harsher. Several majors and captains had already been arrested or shifted to posts deep in the interior of Portugal or on the Atlantic islands; the head of the military academy had already been removed. On April 18 the minister of the interior went to Oporto and gave a hard-line speech which later preempted the evening TV programs; he ended with an ominous quotation from that old master whose words since 1970 had been carefully avoided, Oliveira Salazar.
The public was appalled. So too were the leaders of the great conglomerates. The last thing they wanted was a return to Salazarism, threatening even those modest liberal gains of the Caetano years, and making virtually impossible a peaceful transition to the more open system they now regarded as desirable. The captains, as one of them said later, needed “a symbol.” The industrialists did not wish to see the system fall. But if it was to fall then they wanted it to fall gracefully. This was the combination of circumstances that made General Spínola the indispensable man.
It takes two to make a bloodless revolution. During the critical last hours of the Portuguese corporate state Caetano and Spínola each played his part in masterly fashion. Armed opposition to the takeover was always possible. Both the paramilitary security police (PSP) and the Republican Guard (GNR) could and would have resisted if ordered. Eighty percent of the Portuguese army and most of its equipment is in Africa. There are only about 8,000 combat troops in Portugal itself, and one undermanned armored division. Whatever happened, Caetano’s days were numbered. He had little interest in a victory of the far right. There is a point when inaction becomes as powerful and effective as action. In face of the prospect of violence and the possibilities for popular insurrection, the peaceful transfer of authority to General Spínola was eminently desirable.
On April 25, instead of retreating to the armed bunker prepared by the government for such emergencies, Caetano went to the headquarters of the Republican Guard in the center of Lisbon. This was the guard detachment Spínola had once commanded; its loyalty to authority had never been questioned. The Republican Guard headquarters was the ideal place for Caetano to turn over power to Spínola, allowing both to save face and defusing the major source of effective defense for the old regime. The hated political police (PIDE) were quietly dissolved. But this has disguised the fact that the major “forces of order,” the PSP and the GNR, remain intact. Caetano’s slogan was “Evolution in Continuity.” Spínola’s should be “Continuity through Revolution.”
Flowers wither quickly. A book written to deflate myths found the institutions based on those myths more fragile than anyone, including Spínola himself, foresaw. If Portugal and the Future became a catalyst for revolution, that was not its intention. The overthrow of the corporate state was the easiest part. The realities ahead are harsh and intractable, both in Portugal, and much more so in Africa.
First, democratic institutions and experience have to be created out of a void, and the new civilian cabinet of communists, socialists, and liberal technocrats is still tightly controlled by the military junta. The Communist party, which maintained a more disciplined underground organization than any other group—and which, unlike the Spanish Party, still takes its cues from Moscow—will now have considerable power, particularly in organizing workers and in keeping their demands within bounds. The Party has long been considered as a cautious and even conservative influence by the radical Portuguese parties; now the only Communist party sharing power in any Western European country, it will have a strong interest in making a coalition regime allied with Spínola and the army work.
But the increased negotiating power of workers, combined with the need for more labor to carry on industrialization, is bound to lead to a deterioration of the exceptionally comfortable way of life of the Portuguese middle class. As the memories of the corporate state fade, the enthusiasm for the revolutionary benefits of liberty and a more open society may also fade before losses in income and property. Small family businesses will continue to suffer from the increasing concentration and modernization of the economy.
The provisional government, moreover, inherits virulent inflation and will sooner or later have to face up to the rural crisis and the question of land reform. The right wing, though quiet for the moment, remains strong and will exploit these discontents as they grow. In Spain where many of the Portuguese political police have now fled, the Franco government has a vested interest in the revolution’s failure. Any further deterioration of the European political and economic situation will compromise Portugal’s hopes for entry into the European Community and will also in the short run cut down the tourist earnings and emigrant remittances so vital to the Portuguese economy.
Above all a rapid disengagement in Africa is essential if funds are to be redirected into productive investment. Conditions for a settlement in Guinea-Bissau are favorable, and in Angola a solution on the Spínola model seems possible; but in Mozambique the situation is volatile owing to the strength of the Frelimo forces, the presence of an aroused white settler community, and the vital interest of South Africa and Rhodesia in Mozambique’s port and rail facilities, particularly the port and railhead at Beira, landlocked Rhodesia’s main link to the sea.
The events in Lisbon were nonetheless remarkable and their causes less obscure than their paradoxes suggest. When the communist leader Alvaro Cunhal arrived in Lisbon after the coup, he urged caution. On that very day Spínola met with Sr. Champalimaud, Sr. Manuel de Melo, Dr. Miguel Quina, and Sr. Manuel Espirito Santo, still the ruling economic powers of Portugal. Afterward Champalimaud said, “The excuse of prudence drastically limited the activity of those who had initiative. Any delay in simplifying the economic situation even before restructuring it would lead to the loss of valuable opportunities….” This is after all as it should be. These valuable opportunities had been on Sr. Champalimaud’s mind for some time. It was a good old-fashioned liberal revolution after all. Since they don’t happen very often nowadays, old liberals forget how revolutionary liberal revolutions can be.
June 13, 1974