After 50 years, what is Portugal's legacy?

After 50 years, what is Portugal's legacy?

ShThere is no important date. Today the Portuguese celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution. On April 25, 1974, officers of the Armed Forces Movement, with red flowers on their buttonholes and on the end of their rifles, overthrew the Salazar regime led by Marcelo Caetano, the successor to the notorious dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. This largely peaceful military coup brings an end to 48 years of dictatorship in Portugal.

How does this revolution and the memory of Salazarism resonate even today in the land of Fado? Interview with Yves Leonard, member of the Center for Political Science and author of several works on Portugal, including Salazar: The Mysterious Dictator* (Perrin) and Under the carnation of the revolution (Chanden, 2023).

the point : Is April 25, 1974 the most important date in Portuguese history?

Eve Leonard: It is a historic date that led to a major transformation of Portugal in the twentieth century.H a century. This Carnation Revolution led to the fall of the Salazar regime that had controlled Portugal since 1933. This revolution, more generally, put an end to the country's dictatorship, the longest in Western Europe, which had begun a few years earlier, in 1926.

This peaceful revolution will lead to the creation of a liberal democracy in Portugal. This would consecrate public freedoms, the freedom to question, write, publish, and discuss… With the end of generalized censorship and surveillance, it would open new horizons for a society that was, at that time, very rigid, and very patriarchal. Very withdrawn.

Is it, in a way, the Portuguese 14th of July?

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Officially, no. The Portuguese have been celebrating their national holiday on June 10 for a century, the date that corresponds to the death of the famous poet Luís de Camões in 1580. But if we push this analogy a little, we find that there is a dynamism to April 25, 1974 that reminds us of the French revolutionary process that was born on July 14, 1789. In any case, it is: O Dia da Liberdade “, as the Portuguese say (“Freedom Day” in French).

What is the historical legacy of this revolution?

The legacy is of course democratic and continues to shape the conditions of Portuguese political life today. It is also social. This revolution aims to move the country towards a highly socialist society. Finally, the legacy is geopolitical. The Clove Revolution will change the historical roots of Portugal. Due to its important waterfront and history of expansion into the world's seas, the country had until then been primarily oriented towards the open sea, more specifically towards Brazil, Africa and Asia. After the revolution, it refocused on Europe and joined the European Union in 1986. This marked an important turning point in the history of this country.

It is sometimes said that the French Revolution changed the world. What about cloves? ?

It opens a new process at European and international level. American political scientist Samuel Huntington will talk about a “third wave of democratization” in the world. It leaves Portugal and will quickly influence Greece and Spain, which will transition to democracy, before reaching South America in the 1980s and 1990s.

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Looking from elsewhere at Salazar's dictatorship, it does not appear to have been so brutal. What was it really?

The violent dimension of Salazarism is often underestimated. At the time, he had the support of the United States and some Western allies. In the eyes of some of its supporters, Salazarism was, at worst, a “soft dictatorship.” The reality that the Portuguese live in is completely different. Remember that Antonio de Oliveira Salazar deployed a political police force in 1933, later called “Pide”, whose role was to monitor the population, inform the dictator, track down opponents of the regime and impose censorship! A system with police everywhere and justice anywhere.

These years of dictatorship were also characterized by poverty for the overwhelming majority of the population. The country recorded a large wave of immigration in the 1960s. Many young Portuguese are fleeing poverty, but also military service and colonial wars that fragment the population. Literally: the country is empty!

This revolution gave birth to democracy. But is there a nostalgia among some Portuguese for Salzaria?

As for diet, no, I don't think so. On the other hand, I note that the strong Portuguese national feeling – both respected and understood – is also fed by a national story, a story that was amplified and embellished during the dictatorship. Today there is a kind of saudade “, as they say in Portugal, for a past nourished by greatness, which democracy has not been able to sufficiently preserve. For example, there are sectors of Portuguese society that are very sensitive to what we might call ” Make Portugal great again “.

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Found among former inhabitants of Portuguese African colonies” retornados », they rushed to mainland Portugal in the years 1974-1975, a form of dissatisfaction, as if the decolonization process had failed and the country's historical interests were not preserved.

Has the ghost of the dictator himself completely left Portugal today?

As with Salazarism, I don't think there is, strictly speaking, nostalgia for Salazar. On the other hand, here again, there is a somewhat contradictory perception among some Portuguese. I think especially of the older generation and, out of ignorance, of the newer generations who have this image of this character as someone with a great deal of integrity. Yes, his regime was clientelistic and corrupt, but it is believed that Salazar himself did not benefit from his years in power. He died without amassing any personal wealth. He left some Portuguese with the image of a public man who did not “dip in the box.”

Integrity is precisely a major electoral topic today in the country.

Andre Ventura, leader of the far-right populist Chega party [« Ça suffit », NDLR] The topic of corruption is used a lot. This anti-regime leader claims he wants to “cleanse Portugal” of its supposedly corrupt political class. This talk is bearing fruit. In the early legislative elections that took place in March, Chiga, classified as a far-right member, won 50 of the 230 parliamentary seats in the council after entering in October 2019 with only one elected official. A sign of ongoing normalization.

*Salazar: The Mysterious Dictator. Written by Eve Leonard, Perrin Editions.


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About the Author: Germano Álvares

"Desbravador de cerveja apaixonado. Álcool alcoólico incurável. Geek de bacon. Viciado em web em geral."

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