The Making of Portuguese Democracy

In This Review

The Making of Portuguese Democracy

By Kenneth Maxwell
Cambridge University Press, 1995
250 pp. $49.95
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Maxwell provides a fascinating account, succinct yet comprehensive, of the turmoil that followed the April 1974 coup that overthrew what was left of the authoritarian regime built by Antonio Salazar. The coup itself, and the military revolutionaries, were inspired to a very large extent by the revulsion the latter felt against the colonial wars Portugal had been fighting in Angola, Mozambique, and Portuguese Guinea. Decolonization went hand in hand with political change at home. Maxwell also pays attention to the policy of the United States. Kennedy's anti-colonialism had been replaced by Nixon's and Kissinger's support for the Portuguese dictatorship, which allowed the United States to use Portuguese bases on the Azores islands. When communists joined the government after the coup, "Kissinger's actions were reflexive and automatic." But thanks largely to Ambassador Frank Carlucci and his team, the "Chilean scenario" was not repeated here; they went around Kissinger and persuaded President Ford to support centrist parties, not the far right. Maxwell is particularly incisive in analyzing the communists' mistakes; they tried to prevail by infiltrating the decrepit institutional structures left by the dictatorship, and, by overreaching, they provoked a formidable backlash among the peasantry of the north and the middle and lower-middle classes.