The Portuguese Revolution and the Armed Forces Movement

The Portuguese Revolution and the Armed Forces Movement

The Portuguese Revolution and the Armed Forces Movement

The Portuguese Revolution and the Armed Forces Movement


The helicopters swept low over the stadium. The people, elbow to elbow and waving banners, looked up and reached to collect the red carnations being showered on them from the skies. On May 1, 1975, a celebration in Lisbon sponsored by the Intersindical, the National Congress of Trade Unions, and four other political parties marked the conclusion of a week of celebrations. A week earlier on April 25 the people of Portugal, after 48 years of one-party rule, had gone to the polls to elect a constitutional assembly.

On April 25, one year before, the Movimento das Forcas Armadas (Armed Forces Movement, MFA), proclaiming a leftist revolution in Portugal, had called for a new socialist state in metropolitan Portugal and the decolonization of Portuguese Africa.

The revolution had been nearly bloodless, with six people killed by a contingent of the fascist political police. The six were among tens of thousands of civilians who flocked into doorways and streets to cheer the MFA. Although the MFA had used both loudspeakers and the national broadcasting station to ask people to stay in their homes for fear of actions by PIDE/DGS and other fascist groups, the people of Lisbon wanted personally to witness and participate in the revolution.

Tortured political prisoners were freed on the day the revolution began, and their torturers and imprisoners locked up. On election day one year later, there were 1,246 confessed torturers occupying the prisons and another 250 prisoners who, although classified as political prisoners, had committed offenses against the state of an economic or violent nature. For the first time in 50 years it was not illegal to hold membership in opposition political parties in Portugal.

During this first year--from April 25, 1974 to election day on April 25, 1975--the Portuguese nation attempted to achieve the objectives set forth in the original MFA program, in spite of three attempts to force the MFA out by the use of armed force.

At the same time, the evolution of political parties proliferated. In July 1974 there were 80 groups identifying themselves as political parties. By the time of the elections in 1975, there were only 12 . . .

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