The word “Revolution” beckons thoughts of bloodshed, popular uprising, violence, and the ultimate need for change.
A peaceful and bloodless revolution is sometimes considered an ideal, albeit unreachable, possibility. It was 38 years ago in Portugal that it became a reality.
The story starts in early XX Century when the old ways of monarchy were abandoned in favor of a republic. A coup d’état saw this end not much longer, and Portugal joined many other European nations in the ways of dictatorship and fascism. It was called the “New State” and it imposed itself using the usual fascist weapons of censorship, military enforced strict laws, a secret police dealing with “undesirables”, and rigged elections. As a part of NATO this regime was only tolerated because it was opposed to communism (as most other dictatorships at the time, in Germany and Italy for example). The strict control over economy and expenditure meant at first the country was growing and benefiting from the creation of companies and conglomerates, as well as by the imports of the overseas colonies, like Angola and Mozambique. There had always been a good relationship between the ‘mainland’ and the colonies. However by the 60s, both blocks of the cold war wanted to gain favor within these territories. Guerrillas funded by the US and Russia started battling local control with the colonists, which started wars in almost all the territories, stretching Portugal’s military thin and demanded an increase on the budget. Conscription for these wars forced many young men to flee the country. In later stages, a plan was to be introduced where conscripted officers would attain the same rank as those who formed in a proper military academy, after some service overseas. This pissed off the high rank of the military, which in a military dictatorship, was not good news to the regime.