The Portuguese revolution of 1974 was a socially, politically and economically significant event for the nation, it marked the end of an incredibly harsh dictatorship – the Estado Novo, and the beginning of a brand-new democratic regime. The revolution was a military coup which successfully overthrew the authoritarian dictatorship. The historical movement is often given the name of the “Carnation Revolution” to celebrate the fact that it was a peaceful revolution, since no shots were fired and instead carnations were sticking out of the rifles and were pinned onto soldiers’ uniforms. In order to understand why and how significant the revolution was, it is necessary to explain what life was like during the dictatorship period. The Estado Novo was developed by António Salazar and his three main values for Portugal were: “Deus, Pátria, Família” (God, homeland, family).
He used a special political police force (PIDE) to punish the opposition. This caused a great level of censorship towards any form of social or political freedom. The end of this dictatorship gave rise to a number of significant changes, mainly due to the drastic termination of censorship. Politically, this would allow opposition voices, such as political parties, to present an alternative plan for Portugal. There were also changes which would be slower and harder to achieve. There was a gradual change towards the perception of women. Before the revolution women were expected to stay at home and take care of their children and their house, however, that began to change.
Another significant change was the role of the church. Inevitably, its modification was not exactly drastic. Salazar, having backed religion as one of Portugal’s key virtues, made the church less influential making it hard for the Catholic church to simply comply with the outcomes of the revolution.
Economically, Portugal suffered in the short term after the revolution but gradually came to recover. The Estado Novo period replaced the Republic with a military dictatorship that attempted to abolish political parties. Salazar turned Portugal into a corporative state organised into several corporations lead by different employers, however, he lead with an autocratic dictatorship by relying on his secret police (PIDE) that enforced the policies he wished to implement. This included extreme censorship, monitoring and arrests, as well as the occasional assassination of political suspects.However, after the 1974 revolution, different political parties thrived as both Mário Soares – the head of the socialist party (PS), and Álvaro Cunhal – the head of the communist party (PCP), returned from exile and were greeted with great welcome. Following the revolution, the communist party remained successful as an increasing amount of left-wing groups began to join.Democracy became inevitable with the increasing amount of political parties, and elections were held on the 25th of April 1975. The socialist party won with 38% of the votes, and the communist party suffered a crushing blow by coming 3rd with only 13% of the votes.
The elections signified the beginning of democracy in Portugal, ending the repressive authoritarian system.Despite the repressive regime, Portugal’s economy actually benefited from Salazar’s different management of the country causing a slight economic growth and an improvement in the quality of life in the 1950’s. However, it did not last long since the Portuguese colonies of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea began to fight for independence in the 1960’s.
The war to maintain these countries as colonies proved to be a large economic struggle for Portugal. From then on the era of dictatorship was considered a period where Portugal remained largely underdeveloped and its population and education relatively poor. The economic growth from 1960 to 1973 created an opportunity for emigration, trade, tourism and foreign investment to take place with the more western countries of Europe. In the 1960’s, links were made between wealthy families who owned most of Portugal’s industry and foreign companies. The most important were known as the “seven magnificent”. Included in the seven magnificent were the conglomerates founded by the Champalimaud, Mello (CUF group), Amorim and Santos (Jerónimo Martins group) families.This kept the Portuguese economy strong.
Wages rose between 1963 and 1970, while prices were kept down. The development of tourism made employment rise and raised in-comes. This took a toll on Salazar’s idea of a “backwards” society, since roads were modernised and dams, bridges, schools, hospitals and new libraries were built. This caused rural to urban migration to increase, since there were more jobs available in the cities in Portugal as opposed to the rural areas.
After the 1974 revolution, however, there was a negative economic growth, as industries were being nationalised, meaning that they would be controlled by the government. This caused profit to rapidly decrease. The revolution acted as both a catalyst and a watershed with regard to the economy, since it caused a sudden decrease in profit which quickly changed the state of the economy in the short-term.The role of women in Portuguese society was a long awaited and inevitable change.
Salazar’s mentality was backwards in many things, hence, his mindset concerning women was highlyrooted from “traditional values” from the 19th century, which affected women in Portugal very negatively in what should have been a more evolving age. The defined role of women was to dedicate themselves to their husbands, hearth and home – those were Salazar’s values. Positive changes did not even progress until Salazar was no longer Prime Minister which was until 1968; the liberation of women only truly advanced in 1972. A book was written – “New Portuguese Women” by Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta and Maria Velho da Costa (the “Three Marias) which contained uncensored reflections on women’s roles in society. The book was banned by the regime since it was considered immoral, however, some copies were sold before it was banned which signified the progressiveness that took place post Salazar’s dictatorship. Women’s identity progressed continuously, given that in 1975 after the 25th of April revolution, many women, including the Three Maria’s, took part in the Women’s Liberation Movement. In 1976, following the revolution, women were given the right to vote, and in 1979 Portugal’s only ever female Prime Minister – Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, took office.(Barney Hatton, The Portuguese) Before 1974, the church had a strong influence over society and education in particular.
Salazar was deeply religious and infused that into Portuguese society during the dictatorship. The Catholic Church was given exclusive control over religious instruction in the public schools. Only Catholic clergy could serve as chaplains in the armed forces. Divorce, which had been legalised by the Republic, was illegal for those married in a Church service, but remained legal with respect to civil marriage. After 1974, the transition to democracy formally re-proclaimed that the church and state were separate; the revolution took its toll and society began to gradually reject the church further and further. Portugal slowly became a more secular society, as the country became more urban and literate, the common practice of religion declined. In 2007, abortion was finally legalised in Portugal, and three years later so was same-gender marriage, all which go against the Church’s basic principles.
Portugal to this day is predominantly Catholic with inevitable consequences of the 1974 revolution which came to gradually modernise the country.As a part of the aftermath of the revolution, an increasing amount of immigration took place. Before 1974, it was not common to sight any black people in Lisbon, however, migrants from the former colonies were admitted in larger numbers, which brought about a more cosmopolitan population, primarily from Cabo verde. The immigrants replaced those who had previously left Portugal to find employment elsewhere during the sub-industrialised period before the revolution.
The previous migrants that had left Portugal were found to return. The white returnees and black refugees were often in competition in the over-populated urban slums. In 1974, nearly 30% of the population lacked minimal housing. The revolution did in fact bring opportunity for many, however, with the increasing migration into Portugal, it caused severe economic problems for the country. To this day, the 25th of April 1974 is celebrated in Portugal. It is an annual bank holiday called the freedom day which commemorates the end of the dictatorship and the beginning of democracy. The Aljube museum in Lisbon was originally a prison used to incarcerate political prisoners of the Estado Novo such as Mário Soares. It was converted into a museum so that the public could observe the long struggle for freedom and democracy, as well as the difficulties faced in daily life during the dictatorship, used as an honorary remembrance of the struggle for democracy.
Despite the continuous commemoration of the revolution, it does however differ from the actual historic event. In 1974 the majority of the Portuguese population felt that a revolution was an extreme necessity, since censorship was so highly enforced and had come to negatively affect everyone’s lives. This caused the revolution to be an extremely popular event, often described as Portugal’s most important historical occurrence. In an article by António Costa Pinto it is recognized that democracy was the preferred regime type by 72% of the population, and over half of the population consider the 1974 revolution to be Portugal’s most important event, which is extremely significant when considering the country’s past historical occurrences causing great political modification. Currently however, the revolution is mainly seen as a celebratory left-wing event suggesting evident disagreement when responses are broken down by party support, where the right-wight parties are more likely to consider membership of the European Union or achieving independence from Spain to be more significant events.Nevertheless, the continuous commemoration of the 25th of April acts as a poignant reminder of the modification of a dark and sinister chapter in Portuguese history to a restored democracy, highlighting the hardship suffered by the Portuguese people before the liberating carnation revolution.