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Chris Harman

Portugal: The First Six Months

(October 1974)

From Notes of the month, International Socialism (1st series), No.72, October 1974, pp.5-6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THE PORTUGUESE bourgeoisie has learnt over the last six months that it is one thing to get rid of a government that no longer accords with your needs. It is another to ensure the substitution of a stable alternative.

The coup which overthrew the Caetano regime in April was the work of the Armed Forces Movement (MFA), constituted by 400 middle ranking officers. But its success depended on the feeling within the most powerful sections of business and among the upper ranks in the forces that Caetano’s government was too inflexible to deal with the main problems facing Portuguese capitalism. When it came to the crunch, no substantial section of society was willing to side with the old regime.

The most important problem was that of the African colonies. Portugal’s army was facing defeat in Guinea and was bogged down in endless wars in Mozambique and Angola. The cost was eating up nearly half the government budget. Yet for the most advanced sections of big business Guinea and Mozambique at least were a declining asset. In the last ten years the proportion of Portugal’s exports bought by the colonies had declined from 25 per cent to 11.3 per cent, while Portuguese sales to Europe had increased from 49 per cent to 65 per cent. It was hardly surprising that people in high places began to ask themselves whether they could not replace colonial rule by indigenous rule, while keeping in their own hands the main economic wealth of these countries – as Britain had in Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria and so on.

Further tipping the balance against Caetano was the economic condition of Portugal itself. The most backward capitalism in Europe was likely to be hardest hit by the developing world crisis. Inflation was already greater than anywhere else apart from Greece: estimates suggest it had reached 30 per cent a year by March. The inevitable by-product was continual unrest in industry which the crudest repression could not stop.

But the destruction of the old regime required more than the replacement of one or two men at the top. Throughout the bureaucracy of the state, the armed forces and the police were individuals who owed their advancement to the methods of Caetano and his predecessor, Salazar. The officers of the Armed Forces Movement feared that unless these were purged, they would regroup and reverse the coup. The officers might then find themselves on the receiving end of the torture of which the secret police were notorious practitioners.

The moment the purging began, however, it took on a life of its own. The repressive bonds that had tied down the rest of Portuguese society for nearly fifty years snapped. In the factories, in the media, on the streets, workers began to turn against those who had inflicted so many injuries on them in the past. The army was forced to take secret policemen into protective custody before they were lynched. Army officers were called to the factories to negotiate an end to strikes for the dismissal of fascist managers. In virtually every industry there were struggles for massive wage increases.

The bourgeouisie found that a movement aimed initially to rationalise its rule had got out of hand. From singing about ‘freedon’ and ‘unity’ in May it began to scream about anarchy, until a significant sector of it backed the abortive right wing coup in September. The failure of the coup and the fall of Spinola has, however, aggravated its problems, and ensured that the months ahead in Portugal will be very stormy indeed.

The Provisional Government

SPINOLA was the man who above all represented the interest of big business in the April events. His book advocating a neo-colonialist solution to the African wars was published by the biggest of the monopolies, CUF, and his first government was closely linked to such interests. The first prime minister, Palma Carlos, was well known for his ties with the main sections of big business.

However, it was clear that a government of the ‘centre’ alone – that is of those bourgeois politicians who had only moved into opposition to Caetano a year or two before the coup – would not work. The main popular opposition to the Salazar and Caetano regimes had been led by the Communist Party and, to a lesser extent by the individuals who made up the Socialist Party. The destruction of the right wing organisations after the coup left these in a very powerful position. If they gave their support to the growing wave of industrial unrest, the situation for the ruling class would be grave indeed. The Portuguese bourgeoisie decided it was better to put them in the government so as to be able to use them to hold in check the strike movement.

The situation was made even more complex by the fact that the armed forces were very much divided among themselves. The senior officers who ran the Junta had, by and large, risen to their present positions by currying favour with the Salazar and Caetano regimes. Spinola himself had identified sufficiently with Salazar’s fascist goals to fight for Franco in the Spanish civil war and for Hitler on the Russian front.

But the Junta had not made the coup d’etat. It had only benefitted from its outcome. The main force in carrying through the coup had been the middle rank officers of the Armed Forces Movement. Their attitudes and goals were by no means identical to those of the generals.

Among the junior officers, a large number were conscripts. In the Portuguese armed forces, anyone who is conscripted after being a student is enrolled as an officer (unless he has committed some political or criminal offence). Most of the ex-students resented being dragged off to fight in a futile war in Africa and many continued to retain some of the left wing ideas picked up in their student days.

More significant, however, was the development of discontent among career officers. These too came to dislike tour of duty after tour of duty in remote parts of the colonies, fighting an unwinnable war, as they saw it, on behalf of privileged groups of white settlers who had much higher living standards than themselves. Their resentment led to organisation against the regime when it became clear that the war was threatening their own career prospects. The turning point for many was a proposal about a year ago to change the training programme for officers which they saw as threatening the established career structure through ‘dilution’.

The middle rank officers on the co-ordinating committee of the Armed Forced Movement found that their goal of breaking the hold of the old political elite and ending the African wars could not be guaranteed merely by relying on the generals of the Junta. They maintained their own organisation, the co-ordinating committee of the MFA, to act as a watchdog on the Junta, to ensure that the supporters of Caetano were removed from positions of power in industry, the media and the state bureaucracy, and to prevent any reversion to Caetano’s policies in Africa.

The overall result was that Portugal emerged from the coup with at least three centres of power: the Junta, the Provisional government and the co-ordinating committee of the MFA.

Spinola tried to reconcile these different forces by the establishment of a new organ, the Council of State, made up of equal numbers of representatives of the Junta, the MFA and civilians appointed by Spinola. This was given the power of having to approve all governmental decrees and new laws.

However, the new arrangement never worked perfectly. The attempts by the generals to restrict the scope of the purge of the old regime led to clashes with the MFA. In one incident, for instance, the generals arrested an officer who refused to stop examining secret files on the connection between the PIDE (the fascist secret police) and the CIA; representatives of the MFA went to the barracks and released him.

The tensions within the regime were aggravated by the unwillingness of Spinola and the ‘centre’ politicians to countenance immediate evacuation from the colonies. They wanted to keep the wars going until they could impose terms for independence that would provide very strong safeguards for Portuguese business and settler interests. The negotiations over the future of Guinea – where the Portuguese army was already clearly defeated – dragged on for three months without any result, and no progress at all was made with dealing with the problems of Mozambique and Angola.

Furthermore, the symptons of economic crisis within Portugal itself grew worse. As a strike wave developed, encompassing virtually every group of workers, this posed more and more urgent questions. Those sections of big business who had backed the April coup now began to demand stringent measures to prevent ‘chaos’.

The First Government Crisis

EARLY IN JULY, the generals and the politicians of the ‘centre’ made their first attempt to stop things getting out of hand. Palma Carlos, the prime minister, resigned, complaining of ‘disorder in the streets, social indiscipline, agitation in the newspapers and the invasion of public buildings by government functionaries’. His aim was to precipitate a governmental crisis which would strengthen the hands of the generals and the ‘centre’. But the MFA was not prepared to tolerate such an outcome – particularly since the generals and the centre showed no signs of solving the African problem.

Instead, it was many of the representatives of the centre who left the government to be replaced by members of the MFA itself.

This outcome to the crisis was not ideal to Portuguese big business. But it did seem to have certain advantages. During the time span of the first Provisional government, the young officers had immense prestige and considerable power, but little responsibility for ensuring the efficient operation of Portuguese capitalism. It was felt that as a result, many of their actions – in purging former fascists or in forcing employers to settle strikes on terms fairly favourable to the workers – were damaging the long term prospects of the ruling class.

It was hoped that putting the leaders of the MFA in government would make them change their ways. They were put in a similar situation to that which has faced generations of Social Democratic leaders: finding that capitalism can only be run efficiently by increasing repression against workers.

The second Provisional government did begin to fulfil some of the hopes of the ruling class. It replaced the long drawn out negotiations over the future of Guinea by a grant of immediate independence and moved swiftly towards the formation of a Frelimo dominated government in Mozambique. Portuguese capitalism may not have been overjoyed at the speed of change in the colonies, which weakened the chances of a neo-colonialist outcome, but it recognised that ending the African war was the only way to overcome the split in the army between the generals and the middle ranking officers. It seemed prepared to sacrifice Guinea and Mozambique if that was the price of keeping Portugal.

In Portugal itself, the new government showed itself willing to endorse measures aimed at restoring order and business confidence. It backed a press law which banned ‘ideological aggression’ against the armed forces and which led to fines on a number of papers, the suspending of issues of the Lisbon evening papers and the banning of the Maoist paper Luta Popular.

The Labour Law which it accepted was even more repressive. Despite the claim that it legalised strikes for the first time for 40 years, it actually put restrictions on them which were much more severe than those in the Industrial Relations Act of the British Tory government. The law bans strikes before a collective contract has run out; when a strike by a small section of a firm can close the rest; unless 30 days of negotiations have taken place after the submission of the claim; unless the strike is either officially backed by the union or voted for by 50 per cent of the workers of the whole firm in a secret ballot. It also bans occupations and provides for fines of up to £170 for individuals who organise strike meetings without complying with its terms.

The preparedness of the MFA to support the economic interests of the ruling class was shown in another way as well. It was a special section of the army, set up by the MFA, to defend its interests, the Continental Operations Command (Copcon), which moved against the postal workers’ strike at the end of June and more recently against strikes in the Portuguese airline, TAP, the Jornal do Comercio and the demonstrations of shipyard workers from the huge Lisnave yards.

The commander of Copcon, Saraiva de Carvalho, has expressed the attitude of the leaders of the MFA:

‘One case in which the intervention of Copcon was requested was that of the strike at the CTT (post office). The government felt itself powerless to resolve the situation ... We elaborated a plan that would permit the functioning of all machines of the CTT that were stopped ... We had no intention of repression ... We were going to isolate CTT buildings and ask the workers whether they would return to work and end a strike that was doing so much damage to the population. If the workers did not give up the strike, then we would intervene as best we could ...’

When two conscript officers, Marvao and Anjos, took a different view of their role and refused to have anything to do with breaking the strike, they were arrested and dragged away to the military prison of Trafaria, where they were locked up alongside the police thugs of the Caetano regime.

The Left Parties

DURING BOTH the first and the second provisional governments, the attempts of the bourgeoisie to stabilise its rule received support in practice from the main left wing parties, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party.

The leaders of the left parties argued vehemently with the workers that nothing should be done that might upset Portuguese capitalism. As the leader of the Communist Party said in a speech at Sacavem in June:

‘In the present political conditions, the demands put forward by the workers must be realistic, must not be at a level which cannot be born by the enterprises or by the national economy,’

The same line is put by the Intersindical (the Portuguese TUC) which it very much influences. Antero Martins, as the delegate of the Bank Workers’ Union expressed the majority view of the Intersindical:

‘In most cases the Intersindical takes action with the aim of avoiding big groups going on strike, while with groups that are already on strike it discusses the problem and, taking any opportunity, encourages a return to work.’

Such views have not been confined to words. They have repeatedly been translated into action. When the first big strikes took place after 25 April, the CP exerted all its efforts to get them called off.

In the weeks which followed every major industry was hit by strikes and occupations. The CP did not only order its own militants to argue against strike action: it went further and spread various slanders, arguing that strikes of bakers and transport workers in Lisbon were fermented by ‘fascists’. When 97 per cent of Portugal’s postal workers struck, the CP claimed that the right was once again behind the strike and that the committee running the strike was unrepresentative. It even went so far as to organise meetings on street corners and demonstrations outside the post offices against the strike.

The Lisbon committee of the Party issued a statement:

‘With regard to the strike of the CTT (the post office) the Portuguese Communist Party must alert the workers and the people of Portugal to the political and social implications of the event, in the context of the complex situation that our country is going through. The PCP feels equally that it must alert the workers of the CTT to the manoeuvres of those who, exploiting the just aspirations of the workers, put forward demagogic and unrealisable demands (such as that for the 35 hour week), incompatible with the actual condition of the national economy.’

Such propaganda by the CP was of course joined in by those who had always been opposed to strikes – whether under Caetano or under Spinola. The confusion produced was a necessary precondition for the use of troops against strikers.

More recently, the CP expressed disapproval of the long strike by the workers on the Lisbon daily, Jornal do Comercio. As one of the strikers told the weekly paper Expresso:

‘The CP does not condemn the aims of our strike, but the time set for the strike, maintaining that we should first exhaust all the other forms of struggle. But such advice is useless, because it displays an enormous ignorance of our struggle.’

When the other dailies in Lisbon struck for a day in sympathy, the CP opposed the action. And, again, the regime was able to use troops against the workers.

The other ‘left’ political party in the government is the Socialist Party. It is not as disciplined or monolithic as the CP. It only recently came into being and has been more a collection of leaders than an organisation. It contains within it at least one organised faction that is to the left of the CP. But the leadership is firmly along the reformist road, although prepared to tolerate the left factions if this enables it to build an electoral base for the party.

The best known leader of the Party, Mario Soares, addressed a NATO ministerial meeting in June:

‘We are here representing a Portugal that is fully integrated into the values that are fundamental to our alliance ... Our permanence in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, our fidelity to the traditional alliances of Portugal is expressly reiterated by the high authorities of my country ...’.

In September he told the International Herald Tribune that he looked ‘to the United States for economic aid’ and ‘to help stabilise democracy in Portugal ... A majority of the people are for the United States.’ The socialist minister of information (in the first Provisional government) was responsible for imposing fines under the press law on a number of papers – including the one he had previously edited himself.

Such behaviour of the left parties, particularly the CP, had caused massive confusion among their followers. They do not understand why the Party which for years was the most militant in the economic struggle under Salazar and Caetano should now be abandoning the struggle, even though inflation is the highest in Europe and many of the same bosses are in charge. The Party is denouncing as ‘unrealistic’ the same minimum wage demand it itself raised when in opposition a year ago – when prices were 30 per cent lower.

The strike committees or delegates leading the different strikes repeatedly refer to those ‘who we would expect to support us but aren’t’. As members of the Timex committee told the paper Comercio do Funchal,

‘at the ministry of labour (the minister was then in the CP) we did not find the understanding we would have expected from an organisation that is supposed to look after the interests of the workers. On the contrary, we found that they are holding back the initiative of the workers and were helping the employing class.’

The Argument of the Left

THE COMMUNIST PARTY has tried to justify its stand by arguing that workers have to see the political struggle against ‘fascism’ as the first priority and not just press for money. To press for their claims in full, it argues, would be to produce economic pressures which many small firms could not afford, although the monopolies could. The small firms would be forced into mergers with the monopolies so as to avoid bankruptcy, the power of the monopolies would increase and unemployment would rise.

The argument is doubly wrong. It assumes that somehow the preservation of small scale firms, paying low wages is in workers’ interests. Yet there is no reason why any worker should prefer one boss rather than another. More importantly, it also assumes that there is no alternative to the monopolies buying up bankrupt firms and sacking workers. But there is, of course. It is for the workers themselves to struggle to prevent closure of factories, demanding that the government protects their jobs and wage levels.

The CP argument really amounts to saying that neither the workers nor the government (of which it is part) can prevent capitalism causing unemployment. Its conclusion seems virtually identical to that of James Callaghan when he told the TUC that the only alternative to the low wages embodied in the social contract was high unemployment.

The other argument used, that the fight should be against ‘fascism’, not over wages, is just as bad. The reason why a right wing regime like that of Salazar and Caetano could survive for so long was that, although sections of workers engaged in heroic struggles against it, others were inculcated with age old habits of submissiveness, and felt that it was beyond their power to change the status quo.

What shifts such workers from their lethargy is not the ‘political fight against fascism’ in the abstract. It is the very concrete demonstration that political changes can affect material conditions.

For the advanced workers of Portugal, 25 April was the realisation of a long awaited dream. For the relatively backward workers on the other hand, what mattered was not 25 April, but the economic gains that were possible as a result of the struggles it unleashed. Participation in these struggles, merely ‘economic’ as they might have been, represented the first step .towards the political awakening of the backward sections of the class. Any party which responds to such struggles by telling their participants to return to work and ‘fight fascism’ is telling them to stay asleep politically.

Yet when it comes to real physical battles left and right, the left needs the support of a much wider group of workers than those who normally take an interest in ‘politics’. Every single worker has to feel that he has a material stake in the outcome. The only way to ensure this is to encourage the economic class struggle as a complement to the political struggle, not as somehow opposed to it.

The proof of the pudding in Portugal has been in the eating. The first workers to demonstrate on the streets against the attempted rightist coup were those whose struggle have been criticised by the CP and attacked by the army in recent weeks: the Lisnave shipyard workers, the TAP maintenance staff, the Jornal do Comercio workers and the same postal workers who were alleged by the CP a few weeks ago to be led by ‘reactionaries’.

Prelude to the Putsch

YET DESPITE the support of the left parties and the willingness of the MFA to use limited repression, the Portuguese bourgoisie failed in its attempts to hold back the workers’ movement. After a lull in late July and early August, a new wave of strikes and occupations developed, with strikes in textiles, among agricultural workers, in the shipyards, at TAP, on the daily paper Jornal do Comercio. In the Lisbon area at least these strikes were much more political than previously. When the Lisnave workers demonstrated for the purging of fascists from their management, their slogans included ‘opposition to the labour law, support for the struggles at TAP, Jornal do Comercio, Siderurgia and Texmales, and support for the Armed Forces so long as they support the struggle of the oppressed and exploited classes against the oppressing and exploiting classes.’

What clearly was developing was a movement among workers which the Communist Party could no longer control. Workers might feel enormous respect for the role the CP had played in maintaining for decades virtually the only organised resistance to the Salazar regime. But they could also see with their own eyes the former fascists still in power in the factories and feel the effects of inflation on their own pockets.

Such a development itself was enough to worry the bourgeoisie. But there were other factors at work as well, which turned this worry into complete panic among sections of big business and certain generals.

One was the complete failure of the ‘centre’ to develop as a political force capable of resisting the growing strength of the workers’ organisations. While the CP could not prevent the development of independent working class activity to the left of it, it did predominate in large parts of the country compared with the political parties to the right of it. Big business began to feel that the only possible counterweight lay with those political forces it itself had dismissed only five months before – the former members of Caetano’s political apparatus.

Finally, there was the unresolved problem of Africa. The handing over of power to Frelimo produced fear within the ruling class that the government would allow a potentially very rich Angola to slip out of Portugal’s grasp.

Those industrialists like the Champalimaud family who had welcomed the coup in April, now began to denounce in the bitterest terms the provisional government. It was not a far cry from denounciation to organised opposition.

Spinola gave expression to this change of mood within the ruling class. He had invited Communists into his government in May so as to control the popular movement. Now he venomously criticised the representatives of the left parties in the privacy of the council of state and denounced unnamed ‘political forces’ in public. He hinted that he opposed the handing of Mozambique over to Frelimo and called for the ‘silent majority’ who opposed ‘anarchy’ to take action.

The organisation leading to the abortive putsch seems to have been crude in the extreme. Leading industrialists, such as representatives of Champalimaud, the Banco Spirito Santo and Mabor, met together with a few of the generals, including at least three who were in the Junta, and leading former supporters of Caetano. Spinola made his ‘silent majority’ speech and the industrialists and right wing politicians tried to mobilise behind it on the streets. Groups of fascists were supplied with arms.

The aim seems to have been to give the impression of mass popular opposition to the left, culminating in a pro-Spinola march which was intended to be 300,000 strong. The arms were not meant to enable the fascists themselves to take power, but to create such disorder as to give the generals an excuse to intervene, attacking the left and re-establishing ‘order’.

Yet despite the crudeness of the scheme, it was not as far-fetched as it might seem. In terms of the struggle between the rival factions within the state machine itself, the right nearly won.

The demonstration was called for Saturday 28 September. All that morning the leaders of the MFA begged Spinola to call it off. He ignored them and kept them in a state of virtual arrest in the presidential palace, from where they could not move their units of troops against the right. For several crucial hours Copcon was paralysed. Meanwhile, troops commanded by Spinola supporters were operating. The two ministries directly under the control of pro-Spinola officers, the defence ministry and the ministry of communications, prevented the appearance of all newspapers and put an armed guard on the radio stations.

However, the one thing missing from the calculations of the generals was the reaction of the mass of workers. No doubt they were lulled into a sense of false security by the willingness of the main workers’ parties to sacrifice themselves. But this time the future of the left parties themselves was at stake, and they knew from Spinola’s previous outbursts at the Council of State what he had in mind.

The evening before the rally was due to take place, a number of unions came out with calls for opposition to it. The Communist controlled Intersindical called upon the people to be ‘vigilant’. The railway union went further and instructed its members to refuse to man special trains carrying rightists to Lisbon and to search other trains for them. It called upon the coach drivers’ union to do the same, with the result that only two coach loads of demonstrators ever left for Lisbon.

The Popular Democratic Movement – the resistance organisation under Caetano that links the CP, the Socialist Party, one of the centre parties, the PPD, and the non-governmental Movement of the Socialist left – began to set up road blocks throughout the country.

At the same time, representatives of a number of small groups of the revolutionary left met together. They decided to assist in the organisation of road blocks and barricades and, more significantly, to call for a demonstration in the centre of Lisbon to clash with the rightist demonstration. Representatives of workers from the most militant plants in Lisbon – TAP, Lisnave, CTT (postal workers), Standard Electric, Jornal do Comercio – had decided on the same approach and the two demonstrations were merged. What began as a demonstration 10,000 strong soon grew until it was at least 40,000 strong.

Such a movement of workers did not fail to penetrate the barrack walls. Those officers backing the rightist line began to find themselves isolated. Soldiers began to join civilians on the barricades, despite broadcasts from Spinola’s supporters ordering removal of the road blocks.

The mass mobilisation on the streets shifted the balance within the army command from Spinola to the MFA. Spinola made one last desperate bid for the Council of State to grant him dictatorial power, and then called off the rally. The MFA forces moved into action at long last, taking control over the radio stations from the right and searching the city for anyone who might have been associated with the coup plans.


IT WOULD be wrong to draw from the failure of the September coup the conclusion that the right wing in Portugal is finished. It is true that sections of the ruling class worked themselves up into such a state of frenzy that they did not make the most elementary calculations before moving into action. Fortified by its economic victories of recent months, the working class felt immensely strong. To break that strength did not require one demonstration, but a long drawn out war of attrition aimed at demoralising significant layers of the class. This is a war that has not yet been waged in Portugal.

Its miscalculations have weakened the bourgeoisie’s hold on the situation even more. The 200 people arrested for involvement in the putsch reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the Portuguese ruling class. But it still has considerable reserves of strength. One of these remains, despite everything, the armed forces themselves. The MFA has been able to win out in the confrontations so far. But it does not control by any means the majority of Portugal’s armed forces. It only has 400-700 members, out of a total number of career officers of more than 10,000. Its strength lies partly in the key positions it occupies and partly in the sympathy other officers feel for its ideas about ending the African wars. However, it does not dare put its military strength to the test. Significantly having removed Spinola it made one of his old friends, Costa Gomes, president so as to neutralise hostility to its power among sections of the army. It was Gomes, for instance, who went to the troops at Valdes do Rainha to prevent them marching on Lisbon in support of Spinola.

Yet Gomes is by no means a radical. He was a secretary of state for the army under Salazar a former commander of the National Republican Guard (one of the pillars of the Salazar and Caetano regimes) and commander in chief of Caetano’s forces in Angola. Since his accession to the presidency he has met privately with Spinola and has publicly expressed his admiration for his predecessor.

There is no doubt that in the period ahead Gomes will try and succeed where Spinola failed, in uniting the army behind the ruling class and stabilising bourgeois rule.

He will be aided by the fact that the Portuguese working class, which played the key role in countering the putsch, has still not developed independent class organs capable of giving permanent expression to its power. Significantly, the reaction of the Communist and Socialist Parties after the coup was to organise, in collaboration with Gomes and the confederation of industry, a ‘national day of labour’, as if the main problem is merely to produce more, not to fight over who controls production.

In the Lisbon area key groups of workers have moved beyond the reformism of the Communist and Socialist Parties, as was shown by their independent initiative during the coup. But it would be wrong to underestimate the continuing influence of the reformist parties throughout the country at large. And even in Lisbon links between the different groups of militant workers are at a most embryonic level.

In one locality only, Banheira, was a popular militia formed as workers disarmed the National Guard. Marines were sent to disarm the militia but refused to do so.

Within the armed forces, there was clearly rank and file action against reactionary officers during the putsch. But there too there seems to be no permanent organisation of the rank and file, as opposed to the MFA. And the officers of the MFA are still playing the conventional military game, seeing their powers as lying in the maintenance of the conventional military hierarchy in the lower ranks of the armed forces, if not at the very top.

The defeat of the putsch showed the power of Portugal’s workers. But it is worth recalling that in Chile, the right wing tried to overturn the Allende government three times before it finally achieved success. In Portugal, the splits in the armed forces and the freshness of the memory of fascism in the consciousness of the population will make its task more difficult. But it can succeed in Portugal too, eventually, unless the working class develops its own, independent forms of class wide organisation, led by a coherent revolutionary leadership.

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Last updated: 13.3.2008