Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

Flashback: the Carnation Revolution

By aphrael in Culture
Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 09:01:49 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)

Remember the fall and winter of 1989? It was the great political event of its era: one by one over the course of several months, almost entirely without bloodshed (the pathetic example of Nicolae Ceausescu being the exception), the governments of the Stalinist block vanished without a trace. The people of those countries suddenly rose up and withdrew their support, and the governments withered. The "Velvet Revolution", it was called in one country, but the principle remained the same throughout the region: a new era of promise and hope brought about when the people, united, asserted their power.

It wasn't the first time that this had happened in post-cold-war Europe.

Thirty years ago last Sunday - on April 25, 1974 - the unthinkable happened: a military-supported dictatorship of forty-eight years' duration collapsed when military dissidents took control of the capital city and the population cheered them on. The new government promised democracy and the abolition of censorship, Within weeks, prostitutes were shocking the deeply catholic country by demanding legalization and unionization. Within the span of a year, a US Senator was demanding NATO intervention. But the peaceful revolution endured no terror and needed no Thermidor; while the government radicalized (as revolutionary governments often do), the peaceful nature of the new regime was never altered, and in the end, the radicals were driven from power at the point of the ballot box.

This is the story of the Carnation Revolution.

The 1920s were a dark and terrible time in Portugal. A misguided entry into the First World War had thrashed its economy ( none too strong to begin with). The Republic's political institutions were scarcely functioning, and the administration lurched from government to government while public trust and confidence dwindled. Liberal Democrats were shouted down by a range of social conservatives, many of whom viewed industrialization itself as the source of the country's problems; activist groups arose demanding a return to the glorious days of the early nineteenth century, before all the troubles of the modern world. A pure Portugal. A Catholic Portugal.

For in those days, the liberal movements' primary enemy was the Church. The Monarchy was gone. The Aristocracy had gone into business and was untouchable, for the middle class would brook no flirtation with Socialism. The Church, however, was still there. The traditional view of Iberian liberals was that the Church was an institution of evil which had for centuries oppressed the peasantry as its landlords and as its clerics. The Republicans in Portugal, like their brethren in Spain, sought to destroy the power of the Church; the clerics, and the peasants who loved it, resisted.

All was well and good; because of the seething of social discontent, the various factions were unable to unite behind a single banner. The parties fragmented, the parliament gridlocked, and the economy stagnated. A general sense of malaise settled in as things followed the proverbial path from bad to worse, and eventually the military decided it had had enough. A couple of generals and their forces seized Lisbon, abolished the Republic, and sent the politicians packing.

The generals had no program; much like Mr. Musharraf, their lighthouse was not a set of goals that they wanted to achieve. It was, rather, a conviction that civilian rule was destroying the country and that somebody had to do something, so it might as well be them. Then, too, they were paralyzed, every bit as much as the parliament had been: the leadership of the junta came from three different political factions. Since each had support within the ranks, none could gain primacy without a fight; and in an unstable three-sided system, nobody wanted to start a fight he wasn't sure he would win.

The economy continued to degenerate. The governmental budget became steadily more overloaded. The nation found itself faced with imminent bankruptcy. Disaster rushed in from the horizon faster than a running cheetah. In 1928, in a desperate, last- ditch effort to block the crisis everyone could see coming, the junta invited an economics professor by the name of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, a man with suitably conservative views who had a history of activism within the Catholic political movement, to find a way to balance the budget. He agreed, under the condition that he be granted the power to veto any spending on any issue he chose - for only a man with the power to control spending can truly reduce the budget. The junta consented. de Oliveira Salazar was to rule Portugal until he was incapacitated thirty-six years later.

The Nature of the Estado Novo

de Oliviera Salazar's regime, like the dictatorship he replaced, started out as a compromise between three different political factions: the Catholics, the Fascists, and the Corporatists. Salazar's political genius - the thing that allowed his government to be effective and break the paralysis of the preceding decade - was in blending the programs of the Catholics and the corporatists. This union allowed him to purge the Fascists from the government and establish the basis for a lasting political order.

There is a significant amount of debate in academic circles as to whether or not the de Oliveira Salazar regime should properly be considered a subspecies of fascism. The detailed taxonomy of political movements is outside the scope of this article, and is in any event a semantic pastime both boring and useless, so I will not go into it further, except to note that de Oliveira Salazar would have rejected the comparison on the grounds that the Italian (and German) Fascists were both pagan and in love with modernity; products of the industrial age, the Fascists wanted to continue and expand the industrial-scientific revolution. de Oliveira Salazar wanted neither. The fundamental principle of the Estado Novo was a return to tranquility and stability - the tranquility and stability that the country would know if everyone would accept that the country was a unitary whole, that the interests of the entire country should be paramount over the interests of the individual, the tranquility and stability that the country knew before all the modern economic and political troubles, all of which were the fault of industrialization and foreign money.

Politics in de Oliveira Salazar's Portugal were severely repressed. Political parties were banned, as might well be expected from a government which preached the unitary and indivisible nature of the body politic. Censorship was the most rigid in Europe; nothing which might infect the national consciousness with unsavory, destabilizing, or otherwise objectionable ideals was allowed. Education, such as it was, was turned over to the Church, which was bound together with the administration - but, unlike in the industrial world, education was not necessarily considered a virtue. All of the greatness in Portugal's history had been achieved by uneducated men, men who had conquered Brazil and Africa and sailed around the world. Illiteracy was no vice and Education no virtue in Portugal under de Oliveira Salazar.

The truly innovative aspect of de Oliveira Salazar's system came in the way corporatism was supposed to be incorporated into the political and economic structure. Industrial and commercial enterprises were to be organized into corporations in which labor and capital were to both have a say in determining the course of the enterprise. The corporations themselves were to have representation in parliament. To an extent, this was similar in structure to an idealized version of the soviet system, in which parliamentary representation was supposed to be handled through workers' councils in the various industrial organizations; de Oliviera Salazar changed it significantly, however, by stipulating that the corporation would entail all of its participants, not just the workers, and by treating the church, the large agricultural estates, and other pre-existing centers of power, as their own corporations.

All of this sounded good enough to win the corporatists over, of course, but most of it was never implemented. The Portuguese state was severely threatened by the Spanish Civil War, and its economy was threatened by the Second World War; and so the establishment of new corporations as significant actors in the political or economic realm was postponed until the late 1940s. By that time, a shining new bureaucracy had arisen. It was said at one point that in Portugal it was impossible for a factory to expand, or a new factory to be constructed, or a new product to be introduced, without de Oliviera Salazar's personal approbation. Corporatism was a facade: a pleasant face used to lull over the corporatists while de Oliviera Salazar, in effect, reinstituted the monarchy (with himself as the monarch) and pursued the political and social agenda of the country's Catholic movement.

The political structure of the state was a facade, as well. While it had a directly elected lower house and an upper house consisting of representatives of the various conservatives, the legislature had no power to propose new laws (these had to come from the Prime Minister) and only met for two months out of the year (subject to dissolution by the prime minister). Meanwhile, when the legislature was not in session, the prime minister had the power to rule by decree, said decrees not subject to subsequent approval by the legislature. The legislature was less than a rubber stamp: it was a tiny fig leaf over an authoritarian body.

The indivisibility of the Portuguese body politic extended to the colonies, too; the Azores, Goa, Madra, Cape Verde, Sao Tome, Principe, Angola, Guinea, Mozambique, Cabinda, Macao, Timor - these were all integral parts of Portugal, indivisible. Their economies were tightly tied into Portugal's, the legitimacy of claims to local nationality was fervently denied. Sadly, this unity did not extend to the colonial peoples: non-Europeans did not become citizens until after 1960, by which time any home the government had of enticing them to believe in the rhetoric of a unified Lusitania was gone.

It was the Estado Novo's colonial policy that was, in the end, the biggest cause of the regime's failure. The problems did not begin with the Indian annexation of Goa (in which the surrendering defender of the fort was subsequently court-martialed, in effect, for failing to become a martyr). They began with insurrections in various African colonies in the 1950s, and spread from there. The Portuguese army was forced to grow in size, and its ranks came to be filled with large numbers of conscripts. The previously isolated hierarchical class system came under strain. The colonial wars themselves were inconclusive. The rebels could not take the garrisons out, but neither could the garrisons take the rebels out. An uneasy war of attrition ensued. And lasted. And lasted. For years. At one point, a quarter of Portugal's military-aged population was in uniform. The casualty count was never huge - certainly not huge enough to inspire revolution or even protests of the sort that the United States saw in its colonial war of the same era - but it was enough that the military leaderships came gradually to be of the opinion that the war was unwinnable, and a political solution was needed.

Such a political solution remained anathema to the national political establishment, and to de Oliveira Salazar; and so a rift opened up between de Oliveira Salazar and the military which had placed him in power. That rift might one day have proven itself fatal; but a fall from a chair broke de Oliveira Salazar's brain and - while he continued, right up until his death, to believe himself Prime Minister, de Oliviera Salazar was removed from power in 1968. de Oliviera Salazar's replacement was Marcelo Caetano, a former overseas minister, and a longtime de Oliviera Salazar supporter. He was to rule the country for six years.

The Caetano Years

Salazar's removal stunned the nation, and Caetano capitalized on it by introducing what might be considered a Portuguese variant of glasnost: a relaxation of censorship, a new freedom to discuss political ideas, a relaxation of economic regulation. A program of industrialization. Actual discussion of colonial problems.

This worked about as well as it did in Russia fifteen years later: an initial euphoria and celebration of the arrival of freedom followed by the outpouring of a contempt for the government which had smoldered, unspoken, in the hearts and minds of the people for as long as they could remember. Initial hopes that Caetano would bring about a democratic revolution were crushed, and after a few years the black pens of the censors began increasing in number. The secret police, the PIDE, who had served the same function in Portugal that the KGB did in Russia, became active again after a few years of quiescence; the jails began to fill with dissidents. Factory workers went on strike, as did transit workers a year later. Revolutionary activist groups formed and began blowing up government installations.

Meanwhile, the wars in the colonies continued. But things were different: the army's displeasure with the situation became more and more public, and a well-known General and war hero even published, in late 1973, a book calling for an end to the wars and a search for a "political solution" to the situation. He was fired for his troubles. The costs of the war continued rising: in 1971, they constituted 49% of the government's budget.

A belated attempt to settle poor, uneducated Portuguese in the colonies was going nowhere. At the same time, close to a million Portuguese left the country in search of opportunity elsewhere during the Caetano years. The Portuguese countryside remained barely able to support its population. An economy which had experienced heavy growth in the 1940s and 1950s, based largely on the export of materials from the colonies, was stagnating, and little was being reinvested into domestic growth. The people were becoming restless, as was the army.

The spark which ignited the fire in the army was a dispute over the status of conscript junior-grade officers. The Portuguese army had, in modern times, always made a strong distinction between conscript officers and professional ones; they had different duties, different responsibilities, different roles, and there was little mixing between them. One difference applied to the way promotions worked: promotions were based on seniority, and if a conscript soldier chose to become a professional after the end of his conscripted duty, his time as a conscript did not count towards seniority. In the summer of 1973, the Caetano government, in an attempt to encourage conscripts to make a career of the army - and thereby to reduce the need for conscription and, perhaps, the discontent of the general population - issued a decree which changed this, and allowed conscript time to count for seniority purposes. The army regulars were outraged; people who had been waiting years for a promotion were now jumped over by people who were below them in the hierarchy. They were devalued, insulted. They were angry.

They began to meet in secret to discuss resistance. Resistance accelerated. Soldiers began complaining openly about their low pay, the futility of the war, and the disrespect they felt the government held them in. They were shouted down; any complaints were dismissed as being revolutionary, as being an injustice to the Portuguese people and their government. So the soldiers went back underground, and took the government at its word. Told that the only way to get what they wanted was revolution, they began to plot one.

The first critical step was taken at a secret meeting of the Armed Forces Movement (MFA), a group which had been formed to protest the poor treatment of soldiers. The meeting was held in Obidos, on December 10, 1973. A procedural dispute over the use of proxy votes (for some officers claimed to represent other officers not present) resulted in a takeover of the group1 by its most left-wing elements, who committed the group to a coup and began seeking a figurehead to lead it.

They found their figurehead in General Antonio de Spinola, one of the great war heroes of the colonial era. In the spring of 1974, he published a book, Portugal and the Future, which argued that the war was destroying Portugal economically and socially, and must be reconsidered. The book was hailed throughout the army as visionary; and the enthusiastic support for its author turned into outrage when the government fired General Spinola for insubordination. The MFA invited Spinola, who had heretofore been resolutely loyal to the government, to join them. A coup was now inevitable - something that Caetano, writing in exile after the fall of his regime, said he had understood from the moment he first read de Spinola's book.

The Revolution of the Flowers

The MFA's first attempt at a coup was bungled, and what was supposed to be a nationwide uprising on the 16th of March was in fact the rebellion of a single garrison, easily put down. Yet the government, which understood the depth of feeling in the army, neither squashed the MFA nor reformed in a way that would entice soldiers away from it. Caetano continued to do nothing while those who were not arrested regrouped and began to plot anew. The plan was assembled by General Otelo de Carvalho, a conscript-turned-professional with a gift for organization and planning. It was executed flawlessly.

At twenty-five minutes past midnight on the 25th of April, a signal - in the form of a folk song - went out over Portuguese national radio: the time had come. Tanks rolled into the main square in Lisbon. The Salazar Bridge over the river Tagus was seized. The airport and the radio and television stations were taken. Key members of the government were arrested. Caetano fled and his hiding place was surrounded, as was the headquarters of the PIDE. All of this was accomplished by sunrise, and the Portuguese public was greeted shortly thereafter with a radio announcement:

The Portugese Armed Forces appeal to all the inhabitants of Lisbon to stay at home and to remain as calm as possible. We sincerely hope that the seriousness of the hour will not be saddened by personal injuries. We therefore appeal to the good sense of all military commanders to avoid any confrontation with the Armed Forces."

The people ignored the message. Nobody knew what was happening; was this a putsch by those who detested the liberal (compared to de Oliveira Salazar) policies of the Caetano regime? Or was it a revolution inspired by those who thought Caetano had not gone far enough? What was happening? The people took to the streets - not to protest, but to talk to each other. To ask questions. To huddle in fear and confusion. As the day went on, the confusion turned to excitement, and then to euphoria. The political prisoners were releaed. Caetano surrendered to the military. The television announced that the MFA "have liberated the people from a regime which has oppressed them for many years." A loud cheer went out across the country. The enduring visual image of the revolution: people came out of their homes and gardens and placed carnations in the gun barrels of the soldiers enforcing the curfew.

The next several days were extraordinary. de Spinola announced the program of the new government: a broad coalition government of military leaders which guaranteed human rights and freedom of expression, the election of a constitutional assembly, the definition of a new colonial policy, and the withdrawal of the army from politics after elections were held. A great joy spread across the land.

A crowd is gathering near Rossio (a big Lisbon square). Troops come towards us. What will happen? They raise their fingers in a V sign. The crowd cheer like I've never heard cheers before. I'd heard crowds shout in anger, but this was joy, unmitigated.

I couldn't understand, nor could M. The feeling sent shivers down us. We remembered Prague 1968, when people had placed flowers in the gun barrels of tanks, a gentle irony. But now people were giving carnations to the soldiers, like one gives to one's loved ones on the night of Santo Antonio, the patron saint of Lisbon. They were buying them newspapers, offering them beer, sandwiches. I clapped, incredulous.

Various activist groups were pamphleteering; socialists took to the streets, singing the Internationale. Everything had changed. The junta tried to stop it, to slow things down; two days after the revolution, they ordered a halt to all demonstrations that had no government approval. They were ignored. Trade unions got together and issued a program of demands. A notorious political exile - Mario Soares, the general secretary of the banned Socialist party - returned from overseas. On May 1, a national holiday, the city of Lisbon - and other cities throughout the country - took to the streets to demonstrate. A party atmosphere prevailed. Freedom had come, freedom at last.


1One of the dissidents who remained loyal to the regime ratted the group out shortly thereafter; the failure of Caetano's government to do anything about it is one of the enduring mysteries of the revolution.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o Also by aphrael

Display: Sort:
Flashback: the Carnation Revolution | 108 comments (63 topical, 45 editorial, 2 hidden)
those were hard times. (1.87 / 24) (#22)
by rmg on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 01:32:30 AM EST

i remember the mother country in the old days. i was very young. we were all so poor. there was nothing to eat. the army gave out nothing but crusty old bread and meager water rations. the water was horribly unclean so they gave out jars of ovaltine to make it drinkable and add some sort of nutrition. it was horrible, gritty stuff, but it improved the flavor of the water enough that we could drink a cup every morning and make it through the day...

year after year we lived this way. finally, we heard  some rumors about a new order... they said they'd lift us out of poverty and we wouldn't have to live on bread and ovaltine anymore... we were skeptical, but it was still wonderful news.

finally, the revolution came and the old theocrats were first up against the wall. months went by though, and things stayed about the same... still poor... but they got us a new powder to put in our water: carnation instant breakfast. we loved it in an instant. it was so much better than that old ovaltine...

that's why we called it the carnation revolution.


dave dean

Beautiful (2.42 / 7) (#35)
by Pholostan on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 10:29:08 AM EST

From opressive dictatorship to more democratic forms. By the will of the people.
- And blood tears I cry Endless grief remained inside
Things sure have changed... (2.60 / 5) (#43)
by bakuretsu on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 11:57:59 AM EST

For in those days, the liberal movements' primary enemy was the Church.

What do you mean "in those days"? ;-)

Fundamentalist zealots will ruin the world.

-- Airborne
    aka Bakuretsu
    The Bailiwick -- DESIGNHUB 2004

I don't believe (none / 1) (#51)
by aphrael on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 12:13:12 PM EST

I don't believe that the ire of the revolutionary socialist movements of modern Europe are in any way directed at the Catholic Church.

[ Parent ]
the catholic church (none / 3) (#54)
by circletimessquare on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 12:23:23 PM EST

will not allow female priests

will not allow married priests

cover up sexual abuse by clergy

and then tell us things like:
you cannot get divorced
you cannot get an abortion

who nominated a bunch of virgin narrowminded fools as our guide in our romantic/ family lives?

the catholic church needs to be jettisoned in europe

and don't even get me started on how much of modern islam has enshrined male misgyny as a religous edict

god i hate organized religion, biggest enemy of peace and prosperity in this world

it attracts and promotes the most narrowminded fools in our communities and then ensconses them in the firmaments of respect and honor and purports that these intolerant bigots speak for us, that they somehow represent the good tolerant giving hearts of our communities, and all the while they spout the most intolerant narrowminded bullshit

your moral and spiritual life begins the day you break the chains of organized religion in your life

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

I don't often see eye to eye (none / 1) (#71)
by ckaminski on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 01:23:33 PM EST

with you circletimessquare, but on this we cannot be but in total agreement with one another.  

Ah, mostly I'm just feeling jilted cuz she Loved Jesus more than me...


[ Parent ]

organized religion (2.00 / 5) (#53)
by circletimessquare on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 12:16:58 PM EST

is the very antithesis of liberal values

what we need in this world is a way to let people know that they can have have rich spiritual lives, full of morality, without feeling like by abandoning the church/ mosque/ temple that they are losing something

indeed, they are gaining something, as the church/mosque/temple nowadays is merely the hold of the most intolerant, narrowminded, bigoted, tribal sort

the day someone loses the childhood shackles of organized religion is the day their spiritual and moral lives really begins

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

wtf?!?!?? [n/t] (none / 1) (#56)
by RandomLiegh on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 12:29:00 PM EST

Thought of the week: There is no thought this week.
[ Parent ]
sorry for shocking you, sheep... baaaaah (nt) (1.20 / 5) (#57)
by circletimessquare on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 12:31:55 PM EST

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
I truly AM shocked (none / 1) (#58)
by RandomLiegh on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 12:33:23 PM EST

that you've never heard of the unitarian universalists.


Thought of the week: There is no thought this week.
[ Parent ]

lol (none / 2) (#62)
by circletimessquare on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 12:52:20 PM EST

no, i am baha'i

no, i am a humanist

no i am cosmopolitanist

no... what am i?

i am a human being

fighting for human beings

against oppressive stale intolerant ideologies and organizations

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

tell me, pleasse (none / 1) (#64)
by aphrael on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 01:01:35 PM EST

about baha'i ... i know nothing about it but it keeps cropping up around me.

[ Parent ]
baha'i (2.62 / 8) (#78)
by Dr Caleb on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 03:25:10 PM EST

Is a popular movement of people who refuse to punctuate or capitalize. :)

Vive Le Canada - For Canadians who give a shit about their country.

There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

baha'i (none / 3) (#80)
by circletimessquare on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 04:41:46 PM EST

started in iran

it's basically meta-islam... what i mean is that as islam consolidates christianity and judaism before it, and as christianity cannibalizes judaism, baha'i takes the teachings of all the worlds religions- buddhism, sikhism, etc., and puts them all under its umbrella as some sort of uber-religion, that all the great prophets of all religions are but prophets, period

the universality of that is appealing, but in the end, it is but another layer of organized religion we don't need

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

I don't know .. (2.25 / 4) (#60)
by kurioszyn on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 12:47:36 PM EST

"The people of those countries suddenly rose up and withdrew their support, and the governments withered."

Uhh ?

Apart from millions of Soviet soldiers, these guys had never any substantial support among local population.

Sadly, not true. (none / 2) (#63)
by aphrael on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 01:01:05 PM EST

At least not according to Vaclav Havel, the former President of the Czech Republic and longtime dissident: his view is that the entire society collaborated in it.

And this is generally true of governments in general: they cannot operate without at least tacit support from the enslaved.

[ Parent ]

Gee .. (2.75 / 4) (#72)
by kurioszyn on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 01:26:39 PM EST

" his view is that the entire society collaborated in it."

So the millions of member of Solidarity protesting against communism in early 80s were just a fringe group ?

How to do explain direct military Soviet interventions during 50s in Hungary/Germany and 60s in Czech Republic not to mention Russian-enforced marshall law in Poland in early 80s ?

Of course the fact that all of these regimes went down as soon as the threat of soviet intervention went away was just a coincidence ?

[ Parent ]

Mr. Havel's point (none / 2) (#73)
by aphrael on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 01:33:16 PM EST

Mr. Havel's point is that the system would not have worked if the citizens of those countries hand't played along; if everyone had resisted, if even a large minority had resisted, it wouldn't have worked.

[ Parent ]
Havel (2.25 / 4) (#74)
by kurioszyn on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 01:44:05 PM EST

They did.
Multiple times.
Thousands died in the hands of Russian soldiers.

This was not a cooperation of the willing but rather cooperation of the subdued people who had no other choice.

[ Parent ]

Havel was one of those who did. (none / 1) (#75)
by aphrael on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 02:05:19 PM EST

But did *the majority*? Or were the majority cowed by what happened to those brave souls who did?

[ Parent ]
Havel (none / 0) (#77)
by kurioszyn on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 02:23:31 PM EST

Oh well, you can apply the same argument to the people in Auschwitz.
Of course the silent majority reacted the same way majority of people would react if approached by a criminal with a gun in a dark alley.
They simply complied.

What I am trying to convey to you is that this sort of behavior cannot under any circumstanced be regarded as a support.
At best it is a realistic tradeoff, something that people whose biggest problem is a 15 cent increase in gas price, will never understand.

[ Parent ]

Oversiplification (none / 0) (#79)
by Pholostan on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 04:27:09 PM EST

It is never neccecary to hold people at gunpoint to opress them. Fear is enough. Even if the people know in their hearts that if they all rise up, the opressive goverment will be overthrown, they will not do it untill they absolutely have to.

I e, if you don't take out random people on the street and have them shot on a daily basis, but generally leave them alone, they will not challange your rule.

Practiced by opressive goverments since the dawn of time. If you leave the big grey mass alone and just stomp on dissidents, you will be safe.

- And blood tears I cry Endless grief remained inside
[ Parent ]
Well (none / 1) (#81)
by kurioszyn on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 04:43:17 PM EST

Well, I pretty much agree with everything you wrote in your post.

My original contention was with the original post which claimed that the communistic regimes in central and eastern Europe were democratically legit constructs and the events of 1989 were essentially no different than the peaceful regime change we just have witnessed in Spain couple of months ago.
In other words, people simply got tired of the current policies and decided to vote for change.

[ Parent ]

Democratically legitimate? (none / 1) (#86)
by aphrael on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 08:51:55 PM EST

I never said that. Please don't put words in my mouth.

Were they legitimate in that the citizens played along and supported them tacitly? Yes. Were they democratically legitimate? No.

They aren't the same concept.

[ Parent ]

Believe it or not, (none / 1) (#97)
by Viliam Bur on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 08:21:46 AM EST

socialism in Czechoslovakia was started peacefully and legitimately (though later it was very undemocratic and illegitimate), and was also ended peacefully and legitimately.

In 1948, majority of Czechoslovakian citizens voted for Communists, so they won the democratic elections. It was in later years when other political parties were banned.

In 1989, the ban on other political parties was removed - the Communist party has changed the law (of course, under some pressure). New parties were created, and they have won next elections.

So yes, people simply got tired of the current policies and decided to vote for change. And the situation in Soviet Union suggested them, that it is a safe choice, now; that change will not be reverted from abroad. At the same time, the Communist party got tired of ruling, too. It is said that a younger generation of Communist politicians believed that in democratic country they will have more freedom, and will still be able to keep a lot of power - so they will profit from changes. The changes to/from socialism were pretty fluent.

And yes, lot of today's important politicians (both in Slovak and Czech Republics) are former Communists; including all presidents of Slovakia. But former Communists are today Christians, Democrats, whatever... and they do not like to be reminded of their past.

[ Parent ]

Czechoslovakia (none / 1) (#103)
by kurioszyn on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 01:15:35 PM EST

Czechoslovakia was a rather unusual case as far as popularity of communism in former Soviet satellite nations - at least in the early years.
I will grant you that.

I won't go into details but I will just mention that in the two biggest nations ( and arguably most important from the Soviet strategic perspective) of the former Soviet block, communism was a purely external implant that never attained any serious popularity among local population.

[ Parent ]

A question (none / 0) (#99)
by aphrael on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 12:37:45 PM EST

as I think the answer to it would say a lot about where you are coming from: was Gen. Jaruzelski a hero or a traitor?

[ Parent ]
The blind man ... (none / 0) (#100)
by kurioszyn on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 12:54:49 PM EST

His likes to present himself as a guy who was stuck between a rock and a hard place but , as far as I am concerned, his actions at that time are only relevant as far as potential mitigating/aggravating factors in the overall issue of his legacy as a public figure.

Ultimately he was a willing participant in a regime enforced and supported by an external entity hostile to the interest of independent Poland, and thus can only be regarded as a villain.

[ Parent ]

I agree. (none / 0) (#101)
by aphrael on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 12:58:21 PM EST

Ultimately he was a willing participant in a regime enforced and supported by an external entity hostile to the interest of independent Poland, and thus can only be regarded as a villain.

Well, sort of. I don't know that he can only be regarded as a villain.

He was definitely a willing participant in a regime that was harmful to his country.

But so was everyone who went to work the day his regime was established.

[ Parent ]

Willing is the key word here .. (none / 1) (#102)
by kurioszyn on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 01:14:33 PM EST

"He was definitely a willing participant in a regime that was harmful to his country.
But so was everyone who went to work the day his regime was established."

I think you are going too far.
One could simply conclude that just by getting up in the morning and going to work people in the occupied Europe were willing participants in the Nazi military enterprise.

[ Parent ]

People wanted only small changes, not big ones (none / 0) (#95)
by Viliam Bur on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 07:09:11 AM EST

In Czechoslovakia in late 60s, people generally wanted some kind of socialist regime. They did not like the Soviet/Russian model (Stalin was dead, but some of his ideas still alive); but neither did they want to return to capitalism.

The general feeling was that socialism is a good idea, but the current situation has to be improved. That power should belong to people, not to corporations; but that there should be free speech, and more personal freedom. And of course, less dependence on Soviet Union; freedom to build our own, independent, Czechoslovakian form of socialism.

But Soviet politicians and military leaders were paranoid, and understood any movement for independence as hostile to them. For them, it was like "Soviet Union = socialism; if you refuse one, you refuse both". (It is similar to some people believing today that "democratic" is the same thing as "pro-American".) And they wanted to keep strong control on everything.

The goal of intervention was that any independent evolution of socialism (outside of Soviet Union) must stop; and that other socialist countries always have to copy the Soviet system.

After intervention people stopped believing in possible change of socialism (though actually it has changed, and in the direction they wanted; but too slowly), and realized that they were de-facto Russian colony, with only formal independence.

Yet in 1989 Alexander Dubcek - the popular and unsuccessful leader of pro-reform Communists in 1868 - was popular enough, so that many people thought he should become a new, democratic president. Havel was mostly unknown person. But then Dubcek died in car accident, and Havel was elected. And only then, socialism was really over.

[ Parent ]

A couple of extra points (3.00 / 4) (#76)
by Estanislao Martínez on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 02:19:06 PM EST

The clearest thoughts I have of this revolution are the following:
  1. I was once visiting a friend in Coimbra (really old university town in Portugal, highly recommended for a 2-night stay), who was giving me an impromptu tour of the university, which included a part where she explained to me that Salzar had knocked down most of their beautiful old medieval and renaissance buildings and replaced them with these big new ugly "Fascist" buildings. (They still keep one of the very oldest library buildings in Europe, housing stuff like a copy of the first edition of Don Quixote.)
  2. The role of the African revolutionaries is much bigger than you make it out-- the generals that became the MFA has served in Africa, IIRC primarily in the losing war in Portuguese Guinea (1963-1973, fought with support from the Soviet Union and Cuba), which had a big role in turning them against the fascist government.

    The most renowned of the African revolutionaries is Amílcar Cabral, who is a legendary African/third world socialist intellectual and revolutionary leader, not nearly as famous as Che Guevara, but with far more interesting ideas on indigenous cultural development (reminiscent of those of Cuban independence leader José Martí).


reading suggestions? (none / 1) (#82)
by danny on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 08:06:13 PM EST

I've read Tabucchi's novel Declares Pereira - a novel set in Lisbon in 1938 - but otherwise nothing about Portugal. (I've read one of Jose Saramago's novels, but that wasn't set in Portugal.)

Any suggestions for a good history of the country?

[900 book reviews and other stuff]

Come visit. (none / 0) (#84)
by lifeline on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 08:32:13 PM EST

Yes, come visit. I personally invite you.

[ Parent ]
what do people think today (none / 1) (#89)
by aphrael on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 09:07:32 PM EST

about the revolution and salazar? i've got no good sources in english on that, and i can't read portugese more than a handful of words. can you tell me? what do you think? what did you learn in school?

[ Parent ]
Those events are who we are (none / 1) (#96)
by lifeline on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 07:12:22 AM EST

Those memories are very still alive today. This year was the celebration of the 30th revolution anniversary, so it wasn't a very long time ago. My father was stuck in Africa for almost 3 years against is will, forced to fight a war in which he didn't believe, along with nearly everyone of his generation.

Nowadays, it's a general feeling across every generation that we had a fascist government back then and the 25th April revolution is what freed the country. Nevertheless, there are still economic wounds from that period. We, as a people, are extremely cool-ass and, given our nature, it's no surprise to me that we could overthrown a fascist government without a simple drop of bloodshed.

Salazar is remembered as a facist pig, specially with the colonnial war, which is still one of the country's most painful memories. Today, ex-colonies natives and its descendents make a considerable part of the portuguese population and, in spite of our history, we get along well. My girfriend is from Cape Verd. The only factor for attrition is economic difference, the different cultures get along relatively well, but there are many ghettos around Lisbon which its main inhabitans are african and african-descent.

So, the 25th april revolution is celebrated as the best thing that ever happened to us. Your text is very godd, but I have to make one repair. You make no mentions to Salgueiro Maia whom is remebered, perhaps, as the greatest hero of that day. He was a young captain that commanded the MFA forces which surrounded 'Quartel do Carmo' where Marcelo Caetano was hidding. His action was what made the revolution a bloodless event and led to a worthy surrender of Marcelo Caetano. After the revolution, he took no political stand. (http://www.uc.pt/cd25a/ing/ing.salgmaia.htm)

If you ever come to Portugal some day, you'll understand perfectly why things happened the way they did. You'll hardly find such a warm people and feel so welcome anywhere else.

[ Parent ]

If? (none / 0) (#98)
by aphrael on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 12:35:10 PM EST

If you ever come to Portugal some day, you'll understand perfectly why things happened the way they did

I've been to Portugal, in 1998. I spent a week on a beach at an ultimate frisbee tournament, 4-5 nights in Lisboa, a night in Evora, two nights in Coimbra, and half a day in Oporto. :) Of all of the places i've been, it's one of my favorites; For years I flew a Portugese flag in my apartment. :)

[ Parent ]

They used to be quiet about it, until recently... (none / 0) (#106)
by jekyll on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 12:11:14 PM EST

I don't remember ever having a teacher telling me his personal opinion on this. I always took for granted that we all think the same about the matter - it was horrible, and now it's over - thus, that goes without saying.

The one thing many of them thought (and still think), which was implicit in their speech, was that Salazar knew what he was doing, economically speaking. Maybe he did, but that doesn't compensate for anything else, obviously.

Today it is different. With the sudden Trotskyist/Marxist trend that's appearing all over Europe (or, at least, Portugal), many of the young teachers I've had these last few years don't keep themselves quiet when it comes to bash capitalism and the White American States. Something has really changed, and i'm not sure I like it. I like to think of myself has a liberal socialist, but I'm in no way confortable with this kind of propaganda at schools, especially coming from those who should be teaching the bad times away (and I mean it - it doesn't matter if it's left/right/whatever propaganda: it is bad as it is, but much worse in schools.)

So, anyway... I'm only 19 years old, so I'm probably mistaken about everything - still and always learning.

Sorry about the lousy english, BTW.

[ Parent ]

lousy? (none / 0) (#107)
by aphrael on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 12:32:16 PM EST

Your english is perfectly lucid and is better than that of many of my ex-coworkers. For a nineteen-year-old non-native speaker it's *incredible*. Don't you *dare* apologize for it. :)

[ Parent ]
Pictures of the revolution (none / 2) (#83)
by lifeline on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 08:26:38 PM EST


ooh. (none / 0) (#88)
by aphrael on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 08:53:33 PM EST

sweet. obrigado!

[ Parent ]
Soviet != Stalinist (none / 2) (#105)
by varjag on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 04:04:48 AM EST

..the governments of the Stalinist block vanished without a trace.

By the year 1989, there were virtually no Stalinist states around (well, possibly Chaushescu's Romania qualified as one). Even the Soviet Union ceased to be Stalinist since Khruschev came in power in mid-50s (and no, the change wasn't merely superficial - the new government had very dirrefernt view on internal and foreign politics and officialy condemned Stalinism).

Good point. (none / 1) (#108)
by aphrael on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 12:43:38 PM EST

In the US, "the Soviet bloc", "the Stalinist bloc", and "the Warsaw Pact countries" are used fairly interchangeably in colloquial speech, but you're right that they shouldn't be. My apologies.

[ Parent ]
Flashback: the Carnation Revolution | 108 comments (63 topical, 45 editorial, 2 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest © 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!