Focus on Portugal: The Carnation Revolution in 1974, and Portugal in the current age.


Before the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia (1989), there came the Carnation Revolution in Portugal (1974).

Remembering Portugal’s Carnation Revolution
(Freedom House)

… The Carnation Revolution—the first of the world’s many subsequent flower or color uprisings—is little remembered today. Its very success may account for its obscurity. At the time, however, the Portuguese developments were understood to be extraordinarily important. The Carnation Revolution brought about the overthrow of an entrenched right-wing dictatorship. It ended, once and for all, European colonialism in Africa. It was decisive in ensuring that at some time in the future, Europe could truly boast of being whole and free. It set the stage for peaceful and democratic change in neighboring Spain. It produced a democratic breakthrough at a time when strongmen and commissars seemed to be on the march around the globe. And it was eventually recognized as the event that triggered the “third wave” of democratization, a phenomenon that was to transform politics throughout the world.

There were immediate implications of the Carnation Revolution in Angola and other soon-to-be former Portuguese colonial realms.

Portugal’s new regime pledged itself to end the colonial wars and began negotiations with the African independence movements. By the end of 1974, Portuguese troops had been withdrawn from Portuguese Guinea and the latter had become a UN member state. This was followed by the independence of Cape Verde, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe and Angola in 1975. The Carnation Revolution in Portugal also led to Portugal’s withdrawal from East Timor in south-east Asia. These events prompted a mass exodus of Portuguese citizens from Portugal’s African territories (mostly from Angola and Mozambique), creating over a million Portuguese refugees — the retornados.

Portugal was accepted into the European Economic Community (now the EU) in 1986. At the time, the country was among the poorest in the EEC. It joined the Euro zone in 1999, and after a transitional period of three years, the escudo disappeared in 2002.

Between 2009-16 the Portuguese economy experienced a severe economic crisis – characterised by falling GDP, high unemployment, rising government debt and high bond yields. This was caused by a combination of the global recession, lack of competitiveness and limitations of being in the Euro.

Portugal’s policy of austerity in the wake of the recession proceeded without the newsworthy tumult of protests in Greece. It was controversial nonetheless.

The Next Portuguese Revolution, by Mark Bergfeld (Jacobin; 2014)

… Beneath the cloak of unity, bitter wars have been raging over the nature of 1974–5, the government’s eager submission to the Troika’s austerity agenda, and whether the new Portuguese left is up for the task of providing a people ravaged by capitalism with a viable alternative to it …

… While many of the gains of that revolution have been eroded, the poet Ary dos Santos reminds us that “no one will ever close the doors that April opened.”

To keep up with current events in Portugal (in English), visit The Portugal News Online.