“25 de Abril, Sempre”

Coming soon: Unbecoming American, A War Memoir, available at amazon.com

Fifty years ago the Portuguese became the first and only populace to overthrow its national fascist regime.

Although I was in Brazil in 1986 when the 1964 Atos Institutionais that defined the American incited and inspired military dictatorship were replaced by a new civilian constitution and in Berlin when the annexation of the GDR began and ultimately witnessed the first months when Anglo-American and other international owners of South Africa’s natural resource extraction system imposed an end to Afrikaaner domination, I missed the so-called “—”. In 1974 my father lay three years moulding in the grave and I was in the midst of adapting to “Jim Crow light” in the American South. The US regime was in the process of withdrawing the CIA’s official cover which former officer Frank Snepp would later call—perhaps ironically—“A Decent Interval” (1977). Another former CIA officer, John Stockwell, in his book In Search of Enemies (1978) would report that upon his return from Vietnam, the Portugal desk was the busiest in the Agency. The US media was full of the threat of Angola falling to the “Reds” no sooner had the Saigon embassy annex been evacuated by dramatic UH-1 roof manoeuvres. As Stockwell added, despite the work of the 40 Committee and Kissinger’s chronic belligerence, every bureaucratic attempt was made to conceal the fact that the Agency “goes rolling along.”

Stockwell, given his residual loyalty as a senior officer at the time and the compartmentalization of information endemic to covert operations (and public propaganda), was unable to say what the CIA—through the late Ambassador and Carlyle Group partner, Frank Carlucci—was doing in Lisbon. A film produced by some young Americans, still available in the Web, Scenes of the Class Struggle in Portugal (Cena da Luta de Classes em Portugal) is about the clearest depiction of the events I know. Among Portugal’s conservatives and reactionaries are those who believe that 25 April 1974 was staged by the Soviet Union and supported by the US as a means of hiving off the African colonies. The US with its older brother the UK would share Angolan and Mozambican loot while the Soviet Union got to play with the residue of the Salazar/ Marcelo nationalists. The implication of this formula—ignoring the popular struggles and ruthlessness with which they had been suppressed—was that the relatively weak communists would do the job of removing those in the Estado Novo regime who were genuinely patriotic and like in Germany wanted to preserve Portuguese sovereignty even at the expense of the colonial populations. The overoptimistic Left served, well by the organizational skills of the otherwise rather bourgeois Portuguese Communist Party, was rightly opposed to colonialism but ill-equipped to deal with a NATO fleet off its coast or the machinations of the world’s most vicious covert action agency. The social revolution was ended by systematic economic and political violence accompanied by the injection of the genetically engineered pseudo-socialist Mario Soares. This spore of international corruption had been cultivated in Switzerland and nurtured to ripeness with funds laundered through the German SPD foundation, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, to create a baseless Partido Socialista for parachuting into Lisbon armed covertly by the US and overtly with patronage to buy whomever threats could not suppress. Of course that did not all happen overnight. (It is worth noting that on the eve of the 50th anniversary, the reigning PS prime minister, Antonio Costa, was impelled to resign and yield to what appear to be at least marginally woke election results. The PS served its purpose even through the first campaigns of the continuing COVID war and its complement the “fifth crusade” in the East.)

It is hard to say whether the designation “Carnation Revolution” was a product of the same OTPOR-type marketing that has caused so much bloodshed since 1989. Given that Gene Sharp’s doctrines were reverse engineering of the Vietnamese NLF practices, it is safer to say that the same Einstein Institution types saw the 25 April military-civilian overthrow of Gaetano Marcelo’s modified Salazarism as a model to study. That means that just as Gene Sharp helped turn Mao’s theories of people’s war into counter-revolutionary tactics he and his acolytes recognized the potential for conversion of the symbolic and political success of the MFA in Portugal into a patent recipe for tactical regime change. As far as I know there has been no investigation of this possibility.

After more than 30 years living in the Federal Republic of Germany and intensive travel throughout the territories of Euro-American fascism, I can still say that there is a special atmosphere in this tiny semi-mountainous corner of the Iberian peninsula, Lusitania. My compatriots are remarkably apolitical in their sociability, preferring football to factional disputes in the Republican Assembly. Yet the air is somehow much easier to breath than in those countries “liberated” by foreign armies. Portuguese have gained a reputation for docility—although their ancient aggression led Westerners into the Indian Ocean and South China Sea with brutality that shocked the great empires at the world’s fulcrum. That was the beginning of the 500-year global war of terror whose most recent campaign was announced by the US in 2001 and has yet to end.

For more than half a millennium the civilized world has waited for the barbarians to join the human race. Periodically events occur which raise hope that humanity did not cease to breath west of the Urals or east of the Marianas Trench. The 25th of April 1974 was one of those choice moments when ordinary people not only complained about the incurable viciousness of their pathological rulers, they actually tried to do something about it.

25 de Abril, sempre!

Dr T.P. Wilkinson writes, teaches History and English, directs theatre and coaches cricket between the cradles of Heine and Saramago. He is author of Unbecoming American: A War Memoir and also Church Clothes, Land, Mission and the End of Apartheid in South Africa. Read other articles by T.P..