Dictatorship in Portugal

Courtesy Reuters

ON November 24, 1927, the Portuguese Government asked the League of Nations to promote a loan of £12,000,000 for the purpose of carrying out in Portugal "a general plan of financial restoration, currency stabilization and economic development." The League took the request under consideration and sent a delegation to Lisbon to study the situation of the Treasury and the Bank of Portugal. Its findings were favorable. By balancing the budget, legally stabilizing the currency, consolidating the State's debt to the Bank of Portugal, and issuing a foreign loan, to be devoted in part to public works of genuine importance, the Committee of the League felt that it would be possible to set the finances and currency of the country on a solid basis. The Portuguese Government at first appeared to be in agreement with the general terms of the plan drawn up by the Committee, but on June 5, 1928, it dispatched another letter to the President of the Council of the League, declining the loan which it had requested six months earlier. What had happened? The matter is worth explaining, because it involves principles of foreign and domestic politics which transcend the particular case of Portugal.

First of all, certain historical preliminaries must be set forth. As we know, since May 28, 1926, Portugal has been governed by a military dictatorship, which is at present in the hands of General Oscar de Fragoso Carmona. The Portuguese dictatorship is an echo of the Spanish dictatorship, just as the latter is an echo of the Italian. At bottom all three are a reaction against the English and French type of parliamentary government. The doctrine behind this reaction is as old as the world: the doctrine of absolutism, of direct government, without restrictions or responsibilities before the law. Louis XIV formulated it more clearly than the innumerable philosophers who have tried to define it, when he said: "L'État c'est moi." In our time its most enthusiastic champions have been Charles Maurras and his colleagues of L'Action Française. The

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