Fifty years ago today, the Portuguese Revolution began when a section of the military moved against the dictatorship, unleashing a powerful workers’ movement. This article draws out the lessons from this inspiring, but also tragic episode in history.

The following is an open letter from our Portuguese comrades (Colectivo Marxista) to members of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), following the snap elections on 10 March, which saw the ruling left/centre-left alliance defeated. The PCP went from 332,000 votes in 2019 to a historic low of 202,000. The comrades draw some conclusions from these poor results, and offer a dialogue to members of the PCP about how to build the forces of Portuguese communism going forward.

The Portuguese snap elections of 10 March were a political earthquake. The left and centre-left parties that dominated the country’s politics for almost ten years have suffered a painful defeat. The conservative Democratic Alliance (AD) won the elections, although by a very narrow margin. The real victor was the far-right party Chega, which more than doubled its share of the vote. Impressionists warn this heralds a turn to the right in Portuguese society. However, these results are a harbinger of instability and of major class battles to come.

As of the start of January, the first issue of Revolução is now out! This is the paper of Colectivo Marxista, the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) in Portugal. The paper Revolução will become an important tool for spreading communist ideas in Portugal.

Since the current Socialist Party (PS) government came to power with a majority in January 2022, it has been a government of crisis, plagued with scandals, intrigues, and resignations. Now António Costa, the PM himself, has resigned following an investigation by the Supreme Court, which led to his own official residence being raided by the police, as well as government buildings and private residences. Several businessmen, CEOs, the mayor of Sines, and António Costa's chief of staff have been arrested. It appears that João Galamba, the Infrastructure Minister, will be indicted, as well as Duarte Cordeiro, the Environment Minister. António Costa himself might be indicted as well.

A major political crisis unfolded this week in Portugal. A scandal over the nationalisation of TAP airline spiralled out of control, and has caused an open conflict between the presidency and the government. António Costa’s Socialist Party was swept into power with an absolute majority in January 2022. Little over a year later, it is racked by scandal and division.

On Saturday 25 February, thousands took to the streets of Lisbon to protest against rising living costs. New demonstrations have been announced for the coming weeks. At the same time, the country is being shaken by a wave of industrial action, spearheaded by school teachers. Indeed, living standards are deteriorating dramatically amidst an unprecedented housing crisis. António Costa’s Social Democratic government, with an absolute majority in parliament since January 2021, is applying pro-capitalist policies, and bears full political responsibility for the crisis.

Portugal’s snap election, held on Sunday 30 January, saw a sweeping victory for the Socialist Party (PS), which won an outright majority on the highest turnout since 2011. Voters mainly punished the Left Bloc (BE) and the alliance between the Communist Party and the Greens (PCP-PEV), which had supported the minority government of the social-democratic PS under Prime Minister António Costa since 2015. The minority government, known as “geringonça” (contraption), had already collapsed last October after their budget had failed to garner the support of the BE or the PCP-PEV. While it was correct to break with the PS, the way it was done, without any political explanation, following


The voting down of the state budget indicates a qualitative change in the political situation in Portugal. An early election next year will happen in a political context very different from that of the previous period. After six years of collaboration between the Communist Party (PCP) and the Left Bloc (BE) with the Socialist Party (PS) government, the “geringonça” (“contraption” - the name by which the unlikely deal struck between the three parties became known) is dead.

Otelo Nuno Romão Saraiva de Carvalho died last month. As a young army major, Otelo planned and coordinated the military coup of 25 April 1974 against the Estado Novo dictatorship in Portugal, despite the fact that the army had previously been one of its main pillars of support. What Otelo could not foresee was that the masses would surge onto the stage of history through the breach that the 25 April coup created at the very core of the bourgeois state. This date therefore also marked the beginning of the Portuguese Revolution.

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 in the town of Odemira, which led to a lockdown being imposed upon two local parishes, has exposed a festering wound on Portugal’s social fabric. The outbreak has brought to light conditions of modern slavery, involving human trafficking and the exploitation of migrant workers, living under extremely precarious conditions, which contributed to the outbreak of the disease.

The apparent social peace in Portugal in recent years – without major uprisings or noteworthy social turmoil – hides a much more complex and bitter reality beneath its fragile surface. Whilst the mainstream media, nationally and internationally, hailed the economic recovery after Portugal’s debt crisis as a new dawn, the scars left in society by a decade of austerity, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, have created the potential for future revolutionary developments.

The Portuguese presidential election saw a collapse of the left vote. This was due to a number of factors. On the one hand, there was the tacit support given to the centre-right candidate, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, from the right wing of the Socialist Party (PS). On the other, the candidates themselves competed knowing that they would not win. This was the case with Marisa Matias, the candidate for the Left Bloc (BE), who recognised the victory in the first round by Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, and for that reason applied with the sole “mission” of “defeating fascism.” 

On 24 January, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the independent Portuguese presidential candidate, was re-elected in a landslide victory, with 61 percent of the vote. Whilst he was the centre-right candidate, he had the tacit support of the ruling Socialist Party. The election has attracted some interest internationally because of the fact that Chega, the far-right party, won 12 percent of the vote, up from around 1 percent in the parliamentary elections of 2019. The real winner in these elections, however, was not Marcelo, but ‘none of the above’.

The reactionary Chega party is making electoral gains in Portugal. How should Marxists respond to the threat of the far right? In addition to the analysis here, our Portuguese comrades are running an event on 8 November that will ask the question, What is Fascism? If you are interested, sign up today! Please note, this event will be held in the Portuguese language. 

The Portuguese Marxists of Colectivo Marxista de Lisboa have put out this call for a general strike until such time that workers’ health can be protected, key levers of the economy are democratically managed to ensure efficiency, and guarantees are put in place to ensure workers’ wages and democratic rights are not undermined. This call has resulted in a big response on social media, showing the developing class consciousness and fighting spirit of the Portuguese working class in the teeth of this pandemic.

The coronavirus crisis has shattered the lauded Portuguese "boom", which is based primarily on the now-crippled tourism industry, and exposed the fragility of this backward European economy. Portuguese workers must follow the example of their class brothers and sisters in Italy and Spain, who have met the bosses' attempts to make them choose between health and pay, with strikes and class struggle!

Note: The situation in Portugal has moved on quickly since this article was written. Confirmed COVID-19 cases have almost tripled since the weekend and the country has experienced its first deaths. The President is set to declare a state of emergency which will involve


Two weeks after the parliamentary elections, the new Portuguese government of the PS (Socialist Party) will officially take office on 23 October. This much is certain – what is not so clear is which of the PS’s potential “allies” (Bloco de Esquerda; the Communist Party and the Greens; the petty-bourgeois environmentalist party PAN; and the smaller left-reformist “eco-socialist” party LIVRE) will support this government – and to what extent.

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