by Diana Ferreira
Peoples’ World | Apirl 25, 2019
Street scene from the 25th of April Revolution in Portugal. | Alfred Cunha / Public Record
April 25, 2019, marks the 45th anniversary since the April Revolution in Portugal when a mass democratic uprising overthrew the fascist dictatorship that had ruled the country for nearly five decades. What started as a coup by anti-fascist army officers quickly morphed into a revolt of the whole Portuguese people. As she walked the streets of Lisbon that day, restaurant worker Celeste Caeiro started placing red carnations into the barrels of soldiers’ rifles and tanks, giving the 25th of April its other name—the Carnation Revolution. Below is an excerpted speech delivered today in the Assembly of the Republic, the country’s parliament, by Portuguese Communist Party member Diana Ferreira.
Today we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the April Revolution—a unique moment in the history of our country, a moment of profound significance for what it overthrew and for what it built.
And when we remember the alliance between the people and the MFA (Armed Forces Movement), when we remember the uprising that followed the MFA’s action on that morning of April 25, 1974, we do not forget. Nor do we forget the dark years of the fascist dictatorship.
Fascism in this country meant poverty, famine, illiteracy, and disease. It imposed child labor. It subdued women. It was the sustaining power of half a dozen millionaire families. It corrupted the whole state. It censored and overwhelmed the people. It chased down and arrested anti-fascists. It built the concentration camp at Tarrafa—the “slow death camp.” It tortured. It killed.
And it was April, with its liberating action, that put an end to this time of terror. It was April which brought a time of hope and the strength to transform.
Let us not forget this, as we have not forgotten the role of the Portuguese Communist Party in that time. Let us not forget the generations of communists, other democrats, and anti-fascists courageously and selflessly faced the fascist dictatorship and—even in the underground, even under the whip of censorship, repression, and torture—fought to overthrow it, often paying with their lives.
Many did not live to see the 25th of April. But all of them were essential for April to happen.
Because the 25th of April is not just a day—it is the culmination of dozens of years of struggle. It was the destination of a path cleared step-by-step by those who always believed that Portugal was not condemned to live gagged. That its people would not be condemned to live crushed and oppressed by the fetters of fascism.
April brought freedom—a freedom where free thought and opinion can live without any kind of censorship.
A freedom where fundamental rights are enshrined in our Constitution, a document emanating from the April Revolution that translates into its text the wishes and aspirations of a people who wanted to be free and dared to fight for their freedom.
April is the freedom of expression, of assembly, of political and trade union organization. It’s freedom of the press. Free elections and voting rights. The end of colonial war.
It is national minimum wage, Christmas allowance, vacation entitlement, and paid vacation. It is the right to work and to dignity on the job with collective bargaining, prohibition of dismissals without just cause, equal pay, and the right to strike.
It is the right to health, education, social protection and social security; to culture, knowledge, sport, and housing.
It is the right to retirement, protection in maternity and paternity; child protection and rights for youth.
It is democratic local power. It is access to public services and fundamental goods.
It is the defense of national peace, sovereignty, and independence.
We speak of all this and much more when we talk about what the 25th of April meant for the Portuguese people.
Many of those rights have been eroded or never guaranteed by right-wing governments in the years since April, putting in question the achievements of April and the fulfillment of what is enshrined in the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic.
Just as struggle was essential in the past to defeat fascism, today struggle is indispensable to advance our rights and guarantee progress and social justice.
In a country hit by more than four decades of right-wing politics…much has had to be done to defeat the plans of those who…sought to perpetuate the policy of limiting rights and increasing exploitation and impoverishment.
It has necessary to fight hard, but with the workers’ struggle and the decisive action of the Portuguese Communist Party, this immediate objective has been achieved, now clearly translated in the recovery of rights and income and in the many measures that allowed, in this new phase of national political life, things such as salary increases, extraordinary increases in pensions, increases in family allowances and other social benefits, free textbooks for students up to the 12th grade, a reduction of the tax burden on workers, improved access to retirement payments for workers with long contributory careers or tough professions in quarries and mines.
All the measures taken are certainly small steps, considering the scale of the problems faced by the people and the country, but they are steps that should be valued for what they mean in the life of the Portuguese people because they demonstrate that it is worth fighting. These victories confirm that there is nothing to do but move forward.
But beyond defense, it is necessary to go further and move decisively towards a real alternative policy, committed to the values of April—toward a policy that responds to the structural problems of capitalism that affect the people and the country, and not to go backwards.
A policy of defending and enforcing workers’ rights (a prerequisite for the development and progress of a country), creating jobs with rights, valuing wages and pensions, and strengthening social protection.
A policy of combating precariousness, unemployment, social inequalities, and ensuring a better and fairer distribution of wealth.
A policy that defends the social rights of the people, strengthening and investing in the social functions of the state—a national health service that is universal and free, quality public schools that are free, a social security system that covers all, and a culture of serving the public.
A policy of defense and investment in the national production and recovery of strategic sectors for our economy that aims at freeing the Portuguese economy from its structural dependency on and domination by monopoly groups.
A policy affirming the sovereign right of Portugal to determine its own path of development, rejecting the interference and impositions of the European Union.
A policy that defends the right of peoples to self-determination and sovereignty and to oppose militarism in favor of international cooperation, peace, and disarmament.
The April Revolution is living proof that it is worth struggle for change, that a people’s strength defeats inevitabilities.
There have been many moments across these past 45 years that have demonstrated that it is only by struggle that we can advance—that the struggle of the workers and the people is essential for social transformation.
April belongs to the people. It was your strength that built it; it will be your strength that will consolidate it.
The future of Portugal will be built with the values of April—a freer, more democratic, more developed, fairer, and more unified Portugal.
We do not give up dreaming, nor give up on struggling to turn “dreams into life.”
As the poet José Carlos Ary dos Santos said, “the doors that April opened no one else will ever close.”