Between 1933 and 1974, Portugal followed a polity quite groundbreaking for its time, which enshrined the individual and collective rights, including freedom of expression and association.
But Portugal was an authoritarian regime, totalitarian trend of single party, which followed all the rituals of the fascist regimes in Europe, introducing the roman salute in political life, youth organisations to support the paramilitary control scheme and public morals.
|Portuguese Childhood Parade "Mocidade Portuguesa", Dec 1st 1940; from Fototeca, Palácio Foz, in O Estado Novo, (1994) Fernando Rosas (coord.); José Mattoso (dir.), Editorial Estampa, Lisboa, Vol. VII.|
How it was possible to maintain a nearly democratic Constitution and progressively transform the country into a fascist society?
Firstly, through decree-law.
The dictator – Salazar, unlike Hitler and Mussolini, was never elected – was a man of little clarified, given to dark intrigue, conservative catholic, anti-communist and anti-democratic. He ruled the country, which barely knew, tucked away in his office and through what his emissaries told him.
Soon after the promulgation of the political Constitution of Portugal, in March 1933, he began issuing decrees contrary to the vaguely democratic precepts of the basic law prohibiting freedom of expression and association, instituting a political police whose first role was to monitor the population on these same precepts.
Portugal has lived, for more than four decades, a system of appearances, in which the law said that freedom was possible, but then appeared a discreet decree to forbid it. And this petty way of governing was so accepted by the Portuguese, that everyone thought it was normal that Salazar rules everything, even if the law says otherwise. Like it or not, this wraps a country and its people.
The Constitution stated that who named the President of the Council (appointed Salazar) was the President of the Republic. But, in fact, the President of the Council, a position equivalent to the current Prime Minister, was who chose the President of the Republic. The President of the Republic, as the basic law, had the power to dismiss the President of the Council. But, actually, who dismiss the President of the Republic was the President of the Council. The opposite case.
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, eminent professor of law connected with the party winning the legislative elections of 5 June, stated that the Constitution of Estado Novo (New State, as the regime named it self) was a semantics Constitution, as I had said before in Meios de Produção; i.e. rhetoric needed a political model, but the practice showed another distinct model, often contrary to the rhetoric.
With the death of António Salazar in 1970, many thought the regime, now led by Marcelo Caetano, would be different. A vain aspiration and absurd, since an authoritarian regime would be incapable of producing suddenly a democratic regime or civil liberties.
Caetano was limited to semantic issues, changed the name of the political police, for example, introduced freedom of the press (which was under censure since 1926), but at the same time, imposed a State of War, that forbade it (Portugal was fighting liberation movements in its colonies in Africa).
Was this world of appearances, hypocrisy and meanness that graduated Aníbal Cavaco Silva, who is currently the President of the Portuguese Republic. His nature has long been discussed here in Meios de Produção and it’s not worth going back to what was said.
However, Cavaco Silva – elected to the post of Prime Minister in full democracy – is always in history for having awarded two police policy of Salazar, for services rendered to the nation, and at the same time having refused a survivor's pension to one of the heroes of the Democratic Revolution of 25 April 1974, the change of regime that came to allow his free election. And that nobody takes away for many posthumous tributes that he promotes.
[HERE, in portuguese Parliament you can watch Cavaco Silva swearing the Constitution]
But now Cavaco shows what the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic is, in the best authoritarian regime interpretation. It will be minor trampling, say some, but in minor tinny trampling following another… And we’re back in semantic constitutions!
What is happening? The Article 187 of the Portuguese Constitution stipulates that “the Prime Minister is appointed by the President of the Republic after hearing the parties represented in Parliament, and bearing in mind the election results”. What does the President of the Republic, and always did since the 25 April 1974? Calls the parties with parliamentary representation and then appoints the Prime Minister.
But Cavaco Silva prepares to do otherwise. Called the first one who will be Prime Minister, the most voted party leader, and has not even thought of calling parties. Reversed the rule of the Constitution!
This issue is no less important if we consider, for example, that in East Timor, a young democracy and that has a Constitution similar to the Portuguese (East Timor was a portuguese colony), in 2007 parliamentary election, the most voted party, without majority, Mari Alkatiri’s FRETILIN, not formed Government, because the President of the Republic, gave the legislature to the second most voted party, Xanana Gusmão’s CNRT, which colligated with another smaller party.
In Portugal, this scenario or another would also be possible, but Cavaco Silva erased it, precisely because the Portuguese Constitution was deliberately trampled on; the Basic Law of the State and from which derives the entire national political and administrative organization was deliberated trampled.
Cavaco Silva said nothing yet but he will make his speech today on 10 June, national holiday, date he used to call the “day of the race” (fascist and xenophobic designation used under authoritarian regime until the 1950s to mark the national holiday; as you undestand Portugal was also a colonial regime). And what will he say to the Portuguese is the primacy of speculative international economics to the basic law.
Cavaco Silva will say that it is more important to the Portuguese that the basic law is outdated because we need urgency to meet an international loan agreement with high interest rates, that will radically transform our lives, impoverishing us, shooting us for a long recession and possibly irreversible.
This is the recipe that Cavaco Silva knows and believes in and that has its origin in his formation in the authoritarian regime: the people can and should be suppressed because they are uneducated and dangerous and what elites do for the people it’s the best for them – deliver all goods and services to private companies because they will produce the best results.
I never realize that the best results were for shareholders or to the people.
[Obviously my contempt for the current President of Portuguese Republic remains alive and well and undisguised – just see what he said in the communication before the elections of 5 June, puts any hair on foot – so I'll shut up indefinitely. Again. I will return when there is news. Or new projects.]
listening unnecessary begging, fela kuti, in the underground spiritual game (1992), original from no buredi (no bread), 1976