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The Carnation Revolution – In Portugal 1974
Revolução dos Cravos – On the 25th April, 1974, one of the most peaceful revolutions ever documented took place in Portugal. It began in the capital, Lisbon, and was staged as a means of overthrowing some 50 years of dictatorship.
The following is an account of what led to the 'bloodless' rebellion that occurred in Portugal in the mid-seventies. It demonstrates that despite living within an oppressive society, you don't have to resort to violence and aggression as a means of reaching a single objective - peace. Democracy is achievable without shedding the blood of those that oppose our individual right to live as equals - and free from fear.
The Carnation Revolution was preceded by years of major upheaval in Portugal. In 1910, an independent, egalitarian government had supplanted the ruling monarchy – and the First Republic of Portugal was born. This new mode of leadership was replaced in 1926, when the Portuguese military deposed the ruling administration, resulting in a repressive and dictatorial leadership of the country. By 1933 Estado Novo – New State – was founded. It was led by António de Oliveira Salazar, the man who was at the forefront of the initial 1926 defeat of the FirstRepublic.
Salazars’ basic principles were founded upon stabilising the country – he wanted to achieve financial solidity and promote economic growth. During the 16 years that the FirstRepublic had governed Portugal, fundamental stability had not been achieved. It had been a badly implemented system; there was an absence of public order and the administration was chaotic at best.
Carnation Revolution And Dictatorship
The Carnation Revolution and dictatorship became, in the end, mutually exclusive. Under Salazars’ reforms, the country did indeed begin to flourish. This was a huge positive, not least for the people of Portugal. It gave them a sense of new-found security and in return Salazar – and his innovative leadership - gained popularity. Many things were to change for the better under his rule. As an example, all Portuguese citizens were given the right to an elementary education and Salazar invested huge sums of money into the educational system.
Unfortunately, there was a downside to living under Salazars’ control. Salazar was a dictatorial leader. His beliefs were based upon Portugal living under a Catholic social dogma. This would suggest a collective oneness – social Catholicism is fundamentally related to the wellbeing and security of humanity. However, Salazar was discriminatory in his use of social Catholicism and chose instead to implement a suppressive version.
Salazars’ statutes closely resembled the ones used to govern Italy and Germany. He was supported by the military and had his own security police force; combined with his principles, he maintain his control of Portugal for over 35 years. Due to his reforms, the oligarchy grew wealthy and the nation continued to grow economically – yet due to taxes introduced by Salazar to pay off national debt, the Portuguese became among the most impoverished people in Europe.
Throughout the war years, the 50’s and 60’s, Portugal continued to live under Salazars’ dictatorship. The start of the sixties brought with it the Portuguese Colonial War. Salazar had refused to give up Portugals’ colonies in Africa – Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. This added to the weight that the nation was already burdened with. An oppressive government, low income, lack of freedom and now a war that would require vast financial resources, was to prove too much for the nation of Portugal.
By the early 1970’s, Salazar had died. He’d suffered a stroke in 1968 and was replace by Marcelo Caetano. The regime continued as lead by Salazar. The colonial war continued unabated. The military budget was increasing, the army was over-extended. The global community was putting pressure on Novo Estados to find a resolution – and heavily criticising the handling of its affairs. The ruling administration was finding itself progressively more cut off from the rest of the world.
Portugal began to feel the impact of this external condemnation: the people themselves were becoming increasingly disenchanted. The war had entered into its second decade, young men were emigrating, often illegally, as a means of avoiding conscription. The long years of living under a repressive regime proved too much for the nation and, in April of 1974, the country staged a military coup.
Just past midnight, on the 25th of April, tanks moved into Lisbon. The SalazarBridge was taken control of, as were television and radio centres and the airport. Marcelo Caetano had taken flight to some barracks, along with some of his ministers, as a means of seeking sanctuary. Military troops took the barracks, whereby Caetano yielded his position and was subsequently exiled to Madeira. Only four people lost their lives, killed by the government forces in an attempt to retain power, at the start of the military coup.
Several hours later, the newly formed MFA – Movement of Armed Forces – had taken control. Despite the fact that the populace had been warned to stay indoor, thousands took to the streets of Lisbon, in support of the military coup. Civilians merged with soldiers and shouted “O Povo unido, jamais será vencido!" – The people united shall never be defeated – and thronged through the streets, calling for change.
The rebellion was named the 'carnation revolution' due to the fact that the soldiers exchanged bullets for a carnation - placed in the barrel of their guns. Many civilians held or wore carnations – all united in bringing peace and democracy to Portugal and its colonies – without the use of violence. The people of Portugal had liberated their nation – without resorting to hostility and aggression.