Despite the recent waves of tourists who have returned with tales of the beauties and comforts of Lisbon and Estoril, and despite new Luso-American cultural and commercial links, misunderstanding and ignorance characterize much American thought about Portugal. Some observers still believe that this small nation lives entirely in the past. But the fact is that significant changes are taking place there.

In September 1968, Dr. António de Oliveira Salazar, aged 79 and premier for more than 36 years, suffered a severe stroke. As Salazar hovered close to death, the President of the Republic, following the provisions of the Constitution, appointed as new premier, Dr. Marcello Caetano, aged 62, former Professor of Law and Political Science at Lisbon University. His rise to the highest political post in the Portuguese government provoked speculation that perhaps his appointment represented more than just a change in the authoritarian guard. Indeed, since taking office, Caetano has initiated more political reforms in the system than came during the previous decade under his predecessor.

The roots of the transition from the Salazar to the Caetano era go back well before the old premier's stroke.[i] Since 1945, when the authoritarian régime first allowed opposition groups to campaign-albeit under close control-in presidential and national assembly elections, pressures for change have become pronounced. But until the 1960s, troubles for the government were only sporadic. In the past decade, however, the international position of the régime both in Africa and in Europe has come under fire, and the stability of the régime and the cohesion of the leadership groups have been threatened by revived opposition movements.


The political history behind the longest surviving authoritarian government in Western Europe is perplexing. When Portugal adopted a constitutional monarchy and a variant of liberalism in the Constitution of 1822, the country was poor, backward and burdened with a pre-industrial economy. Derived largely from France and Spain, Portuguese liberalism was a concept understood by only a handful of people in Lisbon and Oporto. Until the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the only cohesive institutions were both traditional and, at least in part, discredited: the monarchy and the Church. Out of the crucible of the Napoleonic campaigns and civil wars between absolutists and constitutional monarchists, the army emerged as the only institution capable of sustained unity and decisiveness. The parliament, established by liberal constitutions, remained largely ineffective.

In the course of the century, then, the army became the final arbiter of Portuguese politics. In pronunciamentos during the first half of the century, it overthrew governments, won civil wars, backed constitutions, sorted out leadership and sent feuding politicians packing. It was the decisive factor in the transition from a monarchy to a democratic Republic in 1910. After brief fighting, the last reigning Braganza, Manuel II, "The Unfortunate," fled to exile in England, the republican-infiltrated army triumphed, and a Republic was proclaimed.

Though there had been a number of civil wars in the last century and a half, there had been no true revolution. The short-lived democratic Republic (1910-1926) foundered amid bankruptcy, corruption, instability in government and violent extremism from enemies on the Left and Right. In 16 years, the Republic had 44 governments. Only one president served out a full term. The dreary republican parade of instant crises and fallen cabinets repeated on a larger scale the last turbulent decades of the monarchy. The same institutional problems which had been present under the monarchy continued largely unchanged under the Republic. As Luis Araquistain wrote in this journal over 40 years ago,[ii] the Republic was only a pseudo-revolution, burdened by the traditional militarism and attorneyism which made profound change and sustained democracy impossible.

During the Republic, the forces with a monopoly of power-the army, the Church and the landed oligarchy-withdrew support from the parliamentary régime and coalesced into a counterrevolutionary movement. Allied with senior army officers, with the Church hierarchy, with the commercial establishment, and with the latifundistas (large landowners) in southern Portugal, were the monarchists, the Catholic students and professors, and the integralists, the only Portuguese group which bears any resemblance to a fascist movement.

On May 28, 1926, the Republic was overturned by a pronunciamento led by three high-ranking officers who stated they were throwing out the politicians to "save the country." When the generals could not cope with the problems of bankruptcy, they appointed a civilian economic expert, Dr. Salazar, to rejuvenate the economy. Beginning in 1928 as Finance Minister, Salazar did more than balance budgets; by 1932 he was premier, had gained the confidence of a coalition of the oligarchs and monopolists, had made peace with the key army commanders and had taken over most of the political power in what became known as the Novo Estado (the New State).

Salazar's program for the regeneration of Portugal changed little during four decades. His favorite political terms were "order," "discipline," "unity" and "hard work." Certainly Salazar provided leadership and direction where both had been lacking during the last years of the democratic Republic. One price of his success, however, was that he had to give free rein to the supporting coalition of interest groups, a burden which his successors will have to deal with. The armed forces received healthy portions of the annual budget expenditures throughout a period when Portugal was not in a war in Europe, or, for that matter, in Africa. Besides the outsized army, there emerged another force, a political police, the polícia internacional e de defesa do estado, often known as PIDE. By the 1950s PIDE had developed into a disproportionately large force of officers and informers linked with the armed forces. PIDE elements initiated operations in Portuguese Africa beginning in 1958-59. Growing in influence, it terrorized both the democratic and nondemocratic opposition, and by the late 1960s had become a national scandal, almost a state within a state, as Premier Caetano himself has implied.

In other respects as well, authoritarianism has been costly. The Novo Estado employed many instruments to depoliticize the people: propaganda, indoctrination of régime-sponsored associations, manipulation of the judicial system, control of public education and censorship. A political moratorium, maintained for 40 years, proved highly effective due to the gap between the élite and the masses. The results include widespread political apathy, an absence of politically informed citizens and a general propensity for equating all opposition with communist influence. Once consolidated, the régime found it easier to remain in power than to return to the democratic "constitutional normality" discussed as a goal during 1926-32. In the economic field also the Salazar achievement is seen to be full of ambiguities. The comparison with neighboring Spain is painful. Economic growth has been slowed by tight credit policies, restrictive customs policies, a corporative system of state-directed employers' and employees' associations, monopolies and a nearly petrified agricultural system.

Under Salazar, the régime was openly anti-liberal, anti-democratic and anti- parliamentarian, a philosophy more popular before 1939 than after. But in the post-World War II era some of the conditions in which the régime had been established no longer existed. The defeat of the fascist dictators by the Allies, the economic recovery of Europe, Portugal's admission to the Atlantic Alliance in 1949 and the United Nations in 1955, and the rise of a younger generation of dissenters in Lisbon and Oporto-all were part of the new era.

While opposition groups were forbidden to form legal parties as such, they could establish electoral groups to campaign in the elections of 1948, 1951, 1958 and 1961. Régime candidates, however, always won. Agitation for liberalization burst forth with each new election. In the 1958 presidential elections, opposition candidate Humberto Delgado won at least 23 percent of the vote. Henrique Galvão, in exile like Delgado, seized the liner Santa Maria as a protest against the Salazar régime in January 1961. In January 1962 a group of young officers staged an abortive pronunciarnento at Beja, only to be overwhelmed. The reaction of the government was to tighten security at home and in Africa, to step up a propaganda campaign in an effort to improve Portugal's image with her allies and to revise the Constitution of 1959 so as to end direct elections for president. By 1968 the surface atmosphere of tranquility, which had been so carefully nurtured by the régime, was being punctured not by easily discredited extremists but by those moderates concerned with the enduring crises in the home economy and in Africa.


In the postwar era the growth of the Portuguese middle classes became significant Younger, more sophisticated businessmen and industrialists assumed more important positions; more students chose business- administration careers, fewer chose law and government. Men born between 1920 and 1940 barely remembered or did not experience the much maligned democratic Republic. Younger leaders' perspectives were further enlarged as they traveled outside Portugal and read more widely.

Along with new contacts with the outside world came new profits and more prosperity for the middle classes. Substantial numbers of foreign tourists- especially American, British and French-spent their money in Lisbon. Hotel construction in Lisbon and in the popular resorts burgeoned. In Portuguese Africa, the discovery and exploitation of new reserves of iron, copper, petroleum and other minerals spurred the economy. For the first time, it appeared that Portuguese Africa not only could pay its own way, but could perhaps give Portugal what all colonial thinkers had dreamed of-a massive economic boost to make up for limited resources in Europe.

These traditional dreams, however, were complicated by the heavy expenses incurred in the three guerrilla wars being fought in Angola, Guinea and Mozambique. By 1969, it was clear that in tiny Guinea black nationalists controlled at least half of the country, while in Angola and Mozambique, the richest areas, the European forces were at best in a military stalemate.

Grievances among the middle classes and certain sectors of the upper classes intensified by the end of the decade. The new mineral reserves in Africa were useful in balancing payments in Portugal and stabilizing the currency, and there were some profits for the Africanistas (businessmen and settlers with investments in Africa). But the economy was suffering from increasing indebtedness to foreign capitalists, higher taxes, inflation and tight credit. Though the minimal income taxes, perhaps the lowest in Western Europe, were kept down, the indirect taxes in consumer goods, in exports and in other areas increased. During 1960-66, the foreign debt increased 10 times. And though the budget deficit began to level off by 1966, center groups realized that plans for future expansion of the economy at home were being mortgaged to new foreign investors, to the increasing war expenses in Africa, and to a continuing monopoly held by supporters of the régime in the banking and export businesses.

V. M. Godinho, recently a Visiting Professor of Economic History at Columbia University, maintains in an iconoclastic book published not long ago in Lisbon that the Salazar régime, reluctant to improve agriculture and to industrialize on a significant scale, fostered the stagnation of the country's economy. As of 1968, less than three percent of Portuguese families had annual incomes of $2,000 or more. He noted that even in the last interview given by Dr. Salazar before his stroke, his attitude toward industrialization remained highly ambivalent.[iii]

By the end of the sixties, then, dissatisfaction with economic progress was intense on both sides of the political spectrum, with those left-of-center arguing that Portugal was a victim of an international capitalist coalition intriguing to keep the status quo, and those right-of-center declaring that national independence was endangered by new foreign investment and indebtedness.

One other key symptom of the economic ills was the heavy loss of Portuguese manpower. Estimates vary, but by the late 1960s it was known that over 350,000 Portuguese were working in France. Annual emigration was over 130,000, mainly to Europe, Brazil and the United States. Most emigrants came from the rural areas, where thousands of young peasants could not make a decent living from the poor soil, with low wages, tight agricultural credit, inadequate irrigation and a rigid system of ownership.Though the government tried to control emigration and divert much of it to Portuguese Africa, clandestine emigration to Europe and to Brazil was very heavy.

In short, despite some economic improvements in the foreign exchange position, a favorable growth rate and a steady currency, many Portuguese economists felt that there was a crisis. Above all, the discontent with the economic situation in the 1960s came from the newly emerged middle class and the scions of a new capitalism.


Who exactly comprised the opposition to the Salazar régime? A plethora of splinter groups had survived the death of the democratic Republic. But by 1939 the communists, anarchists and radical socialists had been destroyed or driven underground; today the communist party remains rather insignificant and its major leaders are in exile. All opposition groups found organizing difficult because of lack of funds, the police-informer network, censorship and the political moratorium. Nevertheless, dissident university students in the spring of 1962 organized to raise a loud protest against the civil-liberties moratorium, and since then there have been sporadic student-police confrontations at the universities.

The right-wing extremists who opposed some policies of Salazar as too liberal were a few students, intellectuals and lati-fundistas who were integralists of Integralismo Lusitano, founded in 1914. While the régime has winked at the violent language and anti-Semitism seen in the publications of these elements, Salazar did not allow them much power or prominence in national policy. The reappearance of some of these pseudo- fascist groups in the 1969 elections was provoked by the liberalization moves of the new premier. Of all the right-wing elements, the monarchists enjoyed the least popular support or prospect of success, for unlike Franco, Salazar did not prepare for a monarchist succession. Heterogeneity also characterized the only legal political association, the National Union, founded in 1930. It was not a mass party, and in many areas was only nominally organized. Under Salazar it took on the cast of a movement for true believers, and resembled more a loyal alumni association than a mass party.

It was the center opposition which gained the most ground in 1964-68. Included in this group were university students, professors and writers, some of them descendants of the old Democratic Party founded under the first Republic. Even in the political wilderness, and sometimes suffering exile, voices of dissent would not be stilled. Protest clothed in patriotic garb was often tolerated.

In his first public address as premier, Caetano reassured the situacionistas, those who longed for a return to the status quo ante, that he would remain faithful to the Salazar legacy. Significantly, the policy in Portuguese Africa was mentioned first, and the Premier stated that he would defend it against black guerrilla movements as had his predecessor. An emergency situation persisted there, he claimed, and the need for national unity as regards the African struggle made an early restoration of civil liberties in Portugal impossible. At the same time, he hinted that there would be changes to keep up with the needs of the present and future. Opposicionistas were promised some liberalization.

In his short period in office, Caetano has demonstrated that he will have a style different from that of his predecessor. Personally more popular, more active and liberal than his former "teacher" in the arts of government, he is creating an independent image. Within one year he made flying trips to Brazil, the United States and Portuguese Africa. He has put through reforms including: giving Portuguese women the same voting rights as men; relaxation of press censorship; looser state control of faculty appointments and admissions to the universities of Lisbon, Oporto and Coimbra; and more freedom for government-controlled unions. In October 1968 the Premier also released the exiled leader of the Democratic Socialist Party, Dr. Mario Soares, who had been interned on the African island of São Tomé, and who returned to Lisbon to campaign for political support.

Opposition elements in Portugal as well as those in exile complained that Caetano's reforms were farcical. While it is true that in the 1969 elections these opposition groups were hindered by the restrictive ground rules set by the government-speeches were to be confined to inside buildings and the use of radio and television was prohibited-it remains a fact that the 1969 election was the freest exercise of the sort since the fall of the democratic Republic. Positive evidence of change came in the government's actions with regard to the PIDE. During 1969 Caetano first restricted this security force by dismissing informers from the payroll and replacing some leaders; finally, in late 1969, he abolished PIDE as an agency, replacing it with a new, more closely supervised security arm. Right-wing groups were angered by some of these Caetano policies. During the preëlection campaign, some democratic leaders of the opposition grew worried, fearing a right-wing countercoup which might topple the new premier.

Of all the potential opponents of change in the present system, the army commanders are the most powerful; as has been the case since the 1820s, they remain the ultimate arbiter of politics. When Dean Acheson visited Salazar during a NATO conference in Lisbon in 1952, he aptly described him as a "dictator-manager" who was supported by the army but did not rule it. As Salazar stated in a speech on May 28, 1962, commemorating the 1926 military coup that ousted the democratic politicians of the Republic: "The army is the last bulwark which in the most serious crises defends the destiny and conscience of the Nation."

The paramountcy of the army as kingmaker and kingbreaker remains a fact of life. The wars in Africa and the NATO connection resulted in strengthening the armament, prestige and training strength of the army as never before. By 1967 over 40 percent of the annual budget went to national defense, nearly 300 percent more than the sum allocated in 1960. Whatever the degree of unity among the top echelons of the armed forces, the new premier was obliged to take their increased potential for intervention in politics into account. And at a critical moment during the 1969 preëlection campaign, army leaders warned of possible intervention, causing opposition Democrats publicly to declare their support for Caetano in order to forestall any military coup. Though some opposicionistas faulted Caetano for what they termed his creation of a façade of liberalization for the sake of economic stability, they valued the steps he had made toward important reforms, and his shifting of the center of political gravity from the Right toward the middle.

That incident in the campaign indicated the precarious path the new premier was forced to tread. Though promising a free election, Caetano did not relax all restrictions. In his speeches he stressed conservative points in defining the voters' voices-either peace under his evolutionary policy, or civil war and revolution if opposition members were elected. While allowing for the first time a fairly open debate on the future of Portuguese Africa, he stressed that he offered voters a choice between a "phony independence," as he described the status of independent black states, or economic progress and increasing autonomy under Portugal.

During the election there was some intimidation by the police, and some right-wing extremists belonging to the newly formed Front for National Salvation assaulted some opposition candidates. But whereas in previous elections under the Novo Estado, the opposition invariably withdrew on the eve of voting, protesting and claiming fraud and intimidation by the army and the police, this time the opposition parties did not withdraw. The election results still seemed an anticlimax to some observers. The National Union deputies received 88 percent of the vote, while the total opposition vote, shared among three parties (two democratic-socialist groups and one monarchist), received 12 percent. Not one opposition deputy won a seat. Abstention of voters was a feature of the election, as high as 70 percent in some areas, and averaging about 40 percent throughout the country; out of nearly 10 million people, only 1.8 million, or 18 percent, were on the voting rolls in 1969, The Portuguese masses remained effectively outside the body politic.

By early 1970 the new government was staffed mainly with Caetano appointees, and began to encourage more debate within the National Union. In 1961-62, Salazar had publicly declared that more debate within the "party" was possible; now Caetano actually used it as part of the political decompression characterizing his régime. What is more, within a few months of coming to power, he had replaced nearly all of the Civil Governors with his own loyalists in each district in metropolitan Portugal. Included among the new appointees were men who had been fired by Salazar during earlier political crises.

With Salazar no longer personally in control, would the right-wing elements, the situacionistas who regretted the waning of the Salazar régime, accept the new, younger "dictator-manager"? Could they live with Caetano's policies? Or would they begin a search for a new man to reassume the role of Salazar and relocate the center of political gravity further to the Right? Such questions are difficult to answer, but some candidates for the role might be found among Salazar's followers who left the Caetano cabinet during several changes in 1968-69. They might include the former Foreign Minister, Franco Nogueira, who, resigning before the 1969 elections, ran as a deputy and was elected.


Portugal remains, in West European terms, an undeveloped country. With only 18 percent of the area of the Iberian Peninsula, with a population of 10 million, or less than one-third that of Spain, Portugal has an imbalanced and semi-stagnant economy. (Unlike Spain, however, Portugal has not received large amounts of American aid since 1951.) But even given the disparity of the two countries in size, population and foreign aid received, and allowing for different standards of currency and economic development, one can hardly deny that by many indices of development Portugal is well behind Spain. Thus in units of agricultural machinery Spain in 1966 possessed 180,000 units, Portugal 18,000. Spain was 87 percent literate, Portugal 62 percent, and while Spain's education expenditures increased from 1961 to 1966 by 250 percent, Portugal's increased by 25 percent The annual per capita income in 1966 was $450 in Spain, $275 in Portugal. At the same time annual expenditures for defense ran twice as high in Portugal as in Spain.

But of all the issues before the nation, that of the future of Portuguese Africa has caused the most anxiety. So closely are the issues intertwined that few know where the problem of Portugal's economy ends and the future of Angola and Mozambique begins. The guerrilla wars there and in Guinea have grown in extent and cost during the past three years. While the metropolitan armies have limited insurgency in some areas, new fronts have opened in others, and Portuguese casualties have not decreased. Now in 1970, over 140,000 Portuguese troops, the product of the largest mobilization effort in Portuguese history, are fighting there; and there is the possibility that a permanent army will be stationed in Africa, an expensive prospect for a developing country with growing economic links with Western Europe.

Caetano's record on overseas questions is hardly reassuring to certain Portuguese elements who want a political solution to the question of independence of those provinces. He was the architect of much of the philosophy and legislation for Africa during his tenure as Minister of Colonies, 1944-45, and as a colonial expert through the 1950s. Although he urged reforms of forced labor conditions in São Tomé and Angola in 1945, he was also the author of a widely read primer on the principles of Portuguese colonialism, first published in 1951. When he became premier he attempted to reform conditions in Portuguese Africa, while at the same time reinforcing the army in Guinea. His visit to all three African territories in the spring of 1969 won him popularity in some settler circles and at least temporarily reassured some vested interests. More foreign investment was encouraged to enter Africa through relaxing restrictions and providing more incentives.

However, the 1969 elections aroused alarm among white settlers. Some groups in Luanda declared that they would not accept any political settlement by "an international body," implying the United Nations, and that Caetano must take a harder line. Thus an unexpected consequence of the 1969 elections was an increasing politicization of white settler groups, a new development since the Salazar régime had enforced a political moratorium on settler organizations after 1958. Whatever the discontent of some settlers, however, Lisbon's armed forces enabled her to remain firmly in control of the white-minority governments there.


Which way Portugal? A new path toward an increasing democratization, more rapid economic modernization and a constructive approach to the problem of the status of Portuguese Africa? Toward more authoritarianism? A régime of "Greek Colonels" or "Brazilian Generals"?

Salazar's political philosophy, repeated often during crises to encourage stability and discourage dissent, was that any democracy in Portugal was a farce. Party government, he said, had never put down healthy roots; even under the Republic elections were rigged. Above all, the Portuguese were not suited to the demands of democracy because they were too individualistic and overemotional.

This paternalistic view originated in an era when Portugal suffered from chaotic conditions and a lack of effective leadership. However appropriate the platonic formula of a government run by a handful of wise men, with little or no role for ordinary citizens, had been for 1926 Portugal, it hardly seems so today. Certainly younger generations, who never lived through the Republic, see little merit in it, and this view has been at least partially discredited with the changes of the last few years.

Even with the improved condition of the country and the fairly clean slates of the younger political generations, the transition into an era of greater political participation will not be easy. Though not in power, the elder dictator himself lingers on, apparently unaware of his fall from power, a symbol of the heavy past. For some, authoritarian solutions are more than expedients; they have become a way of life. The transition, if it is to be successful, will require favorable conditions both internally and externally.

Western friends and allies of Portugal would do well to listen to the words of the Portuguese democratic opposition who have proposed a negotiated settlement for the future of Portuguese Africa. Despite the economic arguments of those who desire the status quo overseas, the continuation of a "military solution" could-without the steady hand of farsighted statesmanship-eventually involve Portugal in costly civil strife at home and a general race war in southern Africa. One of the hopeful signs of the last two years is that the new régime's options in foreign policy are more flexible than in the past, and they are, therefore, more in the spirit of the national interest over the long run than of quick profits in the short.

The tired arguments of those who have long persecuted the democratic opposition suggest that the right-wing enemies of democracy have become less representative among the élite, and more desperate. A successful transition from authoritarianism to a more progressive system will require coöperation, restraint and a fund of good will, all in short supply in a society where "ins" and "outs" can forget at times that they are all fellow citizens, Many institutional problems remain in a country with a bloated bureaucracy, an antiquated school system, rigid social stratification and an electorate somnambulant after four decades of a political fait accompli. In 1928 Dr. Salazar was summoned from the classroom to work "the moral and material regeneration" of Portugal. He did not turn back the clock so much as he tried to hold its hands still. His successors may not be able to do so.

[i] By early 1970 Dr. Salazar had partially recovered his physical powers. As a semi-invalid he continued to live at the official premier's residence, while Caetano, the actual premier, resided at his own private home in Lisbon.

[ii] Luis Araquistain, "Dictatorship in Portugal," Foreign Affairs, October 1928.

[iii] V. M. Godinho, "O Socialismo e o Future da Peninsula," Lisbon, 1969. See also "The Comparative International Almanac," compiled by Morris L. Ernst and Judith A. Posner (New York: Macmillan, 1967); and "United Nations Statistical Yearbook" (New York: United Nations, 1969).

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