Some facts about Portugal and the freedom from Fascism

Many people choose Portugal as a holiday destination but how many know about that Portugal was once a Fascist
 State? Here are some some facts about Portugal and the freedom from fascism.

The Portuguese Newspaper Correio da Manha, “Morning Mail”, has this week reported that half of the Portuguese population had not yet been born on the 25th April 1974, exactly 44 years years ago this week, the day of the glorious Carnation Revolution which terminated a fascist dictatorship which had ruled Portugal for 48 years.

I was a young man of nearly 19 years of age and I recall that day very well. I felt a mixture of excitement and bewilderment as I read the newspapers, and watched the television, which on that day, and for the first time in 48 years were free of censure and could report the exact news as they happened instead of being forced to print and report government propaganda. When I was at primary school, I remember, the picture of the dictator, Salazar, was imprinted in our school books with the caption, “The Father of the Nation”. Of course, as we knew no better, we accepted this as normal.

When I got up in the morning, on that memorable day, and first heard the news, I could not comprehend what had happened. When I met my friends and talked to them, their feelings were exactly the same as mine. A dictator, a right wing fascist dictator, had ruled Portugal for 48 years, his word was law, there was no freedom of expression, you could not criticise the government or those in power, to do so meant arrest, torture, and often death at the hands of the political police, the feared Policia International and Defesa do Estado, P.I.D.E., its name says it all really, International Police for the Defence, “safeguard” of the State. Not for the defence, and to serve and protect, the people, but for the State, the State which consisted of the dictator and his rich cronies. There were no free elections, there were political prisoners, there was no freedom.

In those days, before the Carnation Revolution, a few very rich and powerful families owned the majority of Portugal, its banks, businesses, land, real estate, everything. They, and only they, had access to education, in a dictatorship an educated person is a dangerous person because that person has the education not to accept the status quo but to query and challenge. Only those powerful families were allowed to travel abroad, when you travel you see how other people live, behave, and interact with each other. To a dictatorship that is also a dangerous thing because he who broadens his horizons with travel will surely also begin to ask, why?.

Because we, the majority of the population of Portugal at the time, lived in darkness, we did not know any better, we accepted as normal that our bosses, who we had to address as your excellency, in fact anybody in a higher position than us, a lawyer, doctor, or just anybody very rich was addressed as your excellency, had enormous power over you, power about were you lived, were you worked, even if you worked or not, how much you earned, literally power over your life.

If you were a farm worker, you worked in your boss’s huge farm, a boss who probably lived in the city and only came to the farm now and again, who, if he bothered to look in your direction, you had to take your hat off and address as your excellency. He would pay you a pittance, you probably had to work a bit of land, who you may be lucky enough to own or rent from somebody else, on a Sunday and grow a few vegetables so that your family had something to eat.

The same applied to all workers. You were paid barely enough to survive, you had no right to strike, most people didn’t even know what a strike was. You could not complain about your working conditions, if you did, at best, you would lose your job without entitlement to anything whatsoever, at worst, your boss would call in the police who would take you away to prison and probably torture, and stamp you as a communist, which would destroy your life forever.

If you were male, at the age of 19 or 20, you would be conscripted in the army and be sent to Africa to fight in a senseless war in the, at the time, Portuguese African colonies, which lasted for 13 years and drained the country of its wealth, making it the poorest in Europe, and its young men.

Many never returned and their families never saw them again, as they were killed in Africa, the government did not even bother to bring their bodies back, if the family wanted their son’s body back they had to pay for it themselves, of course the majority barely had money to feed themselves let alone pay the substantial sums involved, they were buried in Africa and there their graves stayed, abandoned, without anyone to care and look after them.

Many more young men came back crippled by the war, their lives destroyed for ever, unable to work and without any pension of Government assistance of any kind, many having to spend the rest of their lives begging in order to be able to survive.

But in the early hours of the 25th of April 1974, and after 48 years, this inhuman dictatorship came crashing down.
 A group of low ranking military officers, mostly with the rank of Captain, they later became known as the April Captains, opposed to the colonial wars and to the Government, staged a military coup, later know as the Carnation Revolution, so called because almost no shots were fired and when the population came out to the streets to celebrate and support the end of the dictatorship and the colonial war, they put carnations in the muzzles of the soldier’s guns.

The 25th of April is still a National Holiday in Portugal and still known as Dia da Liberdade, Freedom day.

This military coup returned democracy to Portugal.

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Originally published at portugueseproperty.co.uk on April 28, 2018.