Instituto de Ciências Sociais
Universidade de Lisboa
Authoritarian Legacies, Transitional Justice and State Crisis in
António Costa Pinto
Please address correspondence to
INSTITUTO DE CIÊNCIAS SOCIAIS- UNIVERSIDADE DE LISBOA
Avenida Professor Aníbal de Bettencourt, 9 1600-189 LISBOA
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Authoritarian Legacies, Transitional Justice and State Crisis in Portugal’s
António Costa Pinto
Institute of Social Science,
University of Lisbon,
Av. Prof. Aníbal Bettencourt, 9,
Email: [email protected]
The nature of the Portuguese transition to democracy and the consequent state
crises created a ‘window of opportunity’ in which the ‘reaction to the past’
was much stronger in Portugal than in the other Southern European
transitions. The transition’s powerful dynamic in itself served to constitute a
legacy for the consolidation of democracy.The article analyzes how the nature
of the transition affected the legacy of authoritarianism, superseding and
transmuting its impact on the ‘quality’ of Portugal’s democracy, and
illustrating how the majority of ‘authoritarian legacies’ were more of a result
of the nature of the transition than they were of the authoritarian regime.
Democratic transitions challenge both the social elite and society as a whole to face
up to the legacy of dictatorial regimes; however, the literature on regime change has
paid little attention to the question of how the type of transition may determine the
extent of the elimination or retention of authoritarian legacies.
In a pioneering effort to understand the links between authoritarian legacies and the
‘quality’ of consolidated democracy, Katherine Hite and Leonardo Morlino argue that
the three key variables are: the durability of the previous authoritarian regime; the
institutional innovation of that regime; and the mode of transition. In other words, ‘the
more durable and institutionally innovative the authoritarian regime, the greater the
potential influence of authoritarian legacies. The more privileged the authoritarian
incumbents in the mode of transition from authoritarian rule, the greater the potential
influence of authoritarian legacies’.1 This article seeks to illustrate the hypothesis
according to which the type of transition is the most important of these three variables
in explaining whether and how authoritarian legacies endure or are overcome in two
necessary domains: the elite, and the institutions associated with the old regime.
Changes of regime obliges the new authorities to come to terms with the legacy of the
past, and democratic transitions have been fertile ground for attitudes that are more or
This paper was written when I was Visiting Professor at Georgetown University’s Department of
Government (2004-2005) and presented at the seminar ‘Re-examining Portugal’s road to democracy:
30 years after the Revolution of the Carnations’ at the University of Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute on
23 September 2004. I would also like to thank Nancy Bermeo, Robert Fishman, and Guillermo
O’Donnell, for their comments on this paper at the conference.
less radical in relation to the elimination of authoritarian legacies, and, in particular,
the political punishment of the elites and dissolution of the institutions to which they
are associated.2 Samuel Huntington argues that the emergence, or non-emergence, of
‘transitional justice’ is less a moral question, and more one relating to the ‘distribution
of power during and after the transition’.3 In simple terms, ‘only in those states where
political authority radically collapsed and was replaced by an opposition did the
possibility of prosecution present itself’.4 In transitions by reform, in which the
authoritarian elite is a powerful partner in the transitional process, the scope for the
introduction of retributive measures is limited.
Huntington was writing in 1990, when the transitions in Central and Eastern Europe
were only just beginning and in many cases the calls for punishment and reparations
continued, even in the negotiated transitions that had already resulted in consolidated
democracies, in apparent counter examples to his assumptions.5
However, when we take an overall view of the democratic transitions of the end of the
twentieth century, if we differentiate between transitional and retroactive justice tout
court, we see that Huntington was correct, since we are dealing with the former, and
not the latter. That is to say: when ‘proceedings begin shortly after the transition and
come to end within, say, five years’, we are referring to what Elster calls ‘immediate
transitional justice’.6 We are dealing with a dimension of regime change: the
processes of retribution as a dynamic element of democratic transition. Accountability
is central to the very definition of democracy and new processes can be unleashed in
any post-authoritarian democracy, even although the time dimension tends to
attenuate the retributive pressures, particularly when there has already been a degree
of retribution during the initial phase of democratization. On the other hand, the
factors that can unleash retroactive justice processes after the transitions may already
have another much larger set of factors being, for example, one more weapon of party
conflict, as was the case in some Central European countries in which there are
examples of the successful democratic and electoral reconversion of former
During their initial phase, almost all democratization processes create ‘retributive
emotions’ that are independent of the type of transition.8 In the case of right-wing
authoritarian regimes, the criminalization of a section of the elite, and the dissolution
of the repressive institutions, constitutes part of the political programme of the
clandestine opposition parties. Even in the Spanish case, which is a paradigmatic
example of a ‘consensual decision to ignore the past’, these demands were present. In
‘post-totalitarian’ regimes (to use Linz’s term9), the pressures for criminalization were
present from the very earliest moments of the transtitions.10 On the other hand, even
when dealing with the majority of cases of elite-driven processes, where public
opinion data exists, it tends to show that the elites were ‘meeting a societal demand’.11
Its successful implementation depends on the type of transition.
The type of dictatorial regime is vitally important for determining the extent of
success of regime change, and for the legacies for a successful democratic
consolidation.12 However, even over the long term there is a positive correlation
between the degree of repressive violence and the persistence of ‘retributive
emotions’, the conduct of the old regime does not explain the extent and degree of
these emotions after its fall. Some authors suggest that those dictatorial regimes with
the most ‘limited pluralism’, and which have a more discrete record of repression
during their final years (e.g. Portugal, Hungary, Poland), would face little pressure for
retribution; however, the examples of Southern Europe, Latin America and Central
Europe do not confirm this hypothesis, because such pressures were present even in
these cases.13 We also argue that the nature of the transition is superimposed on the
nature of the authoritarian regime and the extent of its record of ‘administrative
massacres’ in the appearance of a transitional justice.14
In this respect, the Portuguese transition is a particularly interesting case because of
the authoritarian regime’s longevity and the ruptura nature of its regime change, with
the collapse of the New State on 25 April 1974. Moreover, because Portugal was the
first of the so-called ‘third-wave’ of democratic transitions, there were few models
available to inspire it, and none to directly influence it. Portugal was, as Nancy
Bermeo has claimed, an example of ‘democracy after war’,15 in which the military
played a determinant role in the downfall of the dictatorship, opening a swift and
important State crisis during the initial phase of the transition.
The comparative literature on transitions has always incorporated the Portuguese case;
however, some of its characteristics, particularly the role of the military, the crisis of
the State and the dynamics of the social movements, constitute elements that are
difficult to integrate into the comparative analysis of democratization.16 As Linz and
Stepan have noted: ‘we all too often tend to see [Portugal] in the framework set by
later transitions processes’,17 forgetting the greater degree of uncertainty and the
‘extreme conflict path’18 of a regime change that, according to some authors, ‘was not
a conscious transition to democracy’.19 In fact, one of the limitations of some analyses
of Portugal’s transition is their assumption of finality, based on the subsequent
consolidation. This assumption underestimates both the State crises and the
‘revolutionary critical juncture’ of the transition. The author of one of the best studies
of political mobilization and collective action in Portugal during the 1970s notes the
methodological difficulties involved in ‘assimilating a priori the State crisis with the
transition to democracy’, but is precisely this that represents the challenge for any
analysis of Portuguese democratization.20
The nature of the Portuguese dictatorship tells us little about the nature of the
country’s transition to democracy. Salazarism was close to the Linzian ideal-type of
authoritarian regime:21 it was a regime that survived the ‘fascist era’, and was not too
dissimilar in nature from the final phase of neighbouring Spain’s Franco regime,
despite its single party being weaker, and its ‘limited pluralism’ greater.22 In 1968,
Salazar was replaced by Marcelo Caetano, who initiated a limited and timid regime
‘liberalization’ that was swiftly halted by the worsening Colonial War. The inability
of Salazar’s successor to resolve some of the dilemmas caused by the war provoked
the outbreak of a coup d’etat in April 1974. This was a ‘non-hierarchical’ military
coup, which had a political programme that promoted democratization and
Unlike Spain’s ruptura pactada, Portugal underwent a transition without negotiations
or pacts between the dictatorial elite and opposition forces. However, there is no
direct causal link between this marked discontinuity and the subsequent process of
radicalization: other transitions by rupture did not cause comparable crises of the
state.23 As we will show below, the simultaneous character of the democratization and
decolonization processes was one factor of the crisis, while the later was the main
reason of the conflict that broke out in the immediate wake of the regime’s collapse
between some conservative generals and the Armed Forces’ Movement (MFA –
Movimento das Forças Armadas), which had planned and executed the coup. This
conflict was at the root of the military’s generalized intervention in political life
following the dictatorship’s overthrow. The rapid emergence of transgressive
collective actions can be explained by this crisis, although it was not these that
provoked the State crisis.
The institutionalization of the MFA transformed it into the dominant force behind the
provisional governments. The ‘interweaving of the MFA in the State’s structures’ and
its emergence as an authority for regulating conflicts, which substituted, dispersed and
paralyzed the classic mechanisms of legitimate State repression, prevented ‘the recomposition of the State apparatus’.24 This was the main factor explaining why, in the
Portuguese case, the movement for the dissolution of institutions and purges exceeded
those of classic purges in transitions by rupture and, in many cases, came to be a
component of the transgressing social movements.25
Below we will argue that the nature of the Portuguese transition, and the consequent
state crises, created a ‘window of opportunity’ in which the ‘reaction to the past’ was
much stronger in Portugal than in the other Southern European transitions.26 The
transition’s powerful dynamic (State crises and social movements) served to
constitute a legacy for the consolidation of democracy, in itself.27 In other words, we
will observe how the nature of Portugal’s transition affected the legacy of
authoritarianism, superseding and transmuting its impact on Portugal’s democracy.
The nature of Portugal’s transition to democracy
The Portuguese military coup of 25 April 1974 was the beginning of democratic
transitions in Southern Europe.28 Unshackled by international pro-democratising
forces and occurring in the midst of the Cold War, the coup led to a severe crisis of
the state that was aggravated by the simultaneous processes of transition to democracy
and decolonization of what was the last European colonial empire.
The singularity of the collapse of the dictatorship resides in the nature of military
intervention by the captains, a rare if not unique case in the twentieth century.29 The
war on three fronts that was being waged by the regime in Angola, Mozambique and
Guinea-Bissau from 1961 onwards made them protagonists in the country’s political
The prior existence of a semi-legal and clandestine opposition to Salazarism, although
disconnected from the military officers that led the coup, was of crucial importance. It
constituted a political option legitimated by the struggle against dictatorship. The
replacement of Salazar by Marcello Caetano in 1968 due to health reasons gave rise
of a two-year liberalization process, and although it was cut short, it allowed for the
consolidation of a ‘liberal wing’ of dissidents opposed to the dictatorship. The
creation of SEDES in 1970 further consolidated this dissident ‘liberal wing’.31 Thus,
despite the surprising action of the military, there were alternative elites who had
close connections with various sectors of civil society, and who were ready to play a
leading political role in the democratization process.
The ‘revolutionary period’ of 1974-1975 was the most complex phase of the transition
if one considers the transition as the ‘fluid and uncertain period in which democratic
structures are emerging’, but in which it is still unclear what kind of regime is to be
established.32 During these two years powerful tensions emerged within Portuguese
society, which began to subside in 1976, when a new constitution was approved and
the first legislative and presidential elections were held.
The mobilization of diverse anti-dictatorial forces was crucial in the first days after
the coup of 1974. It was especially important in the immediate dissolution of the most
notorious institutions of the New State, as well as in the occupation of various unions,
corporatist organizations and Municipalities. Some of the military elite, the leaders of
some interest groups and a part of the first provisional government sought the rapid
establishment of a presidentialist democratic regime immediately following the
convocation of elections.
The disagreements concerning the nature of decolonization, which was the initial
driving force behind the conflict between the captains who had led the coup and
General Spínola and other conservative generals, led to the emergence of the MFA as
a political force. This subsequently opened a space for social and political
mobilization that exacerbated the crisis of the State, and which can perhaps explain
why the moderate elites were incapable of directing, ‘from above’, the rapid
insitutionalization of democracy. Many analyses of the transition rightly emphasize
the powerful ‘revitalization of civil society’ as a factor leading to the process of
radicalization. As Philippe Schmitter notes: ‘Portugal experienced one of the most
intense and widespread mobilization experiences of any of the neo-democracies’.33 It
is important to note, however, that this mobilization developed in parallel with and in
the presence of this protective cover: indeed, it is difficult to imagine this mobilization
Initiatives of symbolic rupture with the past began to evolve soon after April 1974,
culminating in the rapid and multidirectional purges (saneamentos). Following a
quick decision to remove the more visible members of the dictatorial political elite
and some conservative military officers, the purge movement began to affect the civil
service and the private sector. It became increasingly radical, affecting the lower
ranks of the regime bureaucracy, albeit unevenly. There were immediate calls for the
agents of the political police and of other repressive bodies to be brought to justice.34
Already in May 1974, the purge was the third demand of a group of 149 labour
conflicts and it remained on the top of the list of demands made by workers and
strikers throughout the following year.35
It was at this time that the parties that were to represent the right and centre-right, the
Social Democratic Centre (CDS – Centro Democrático Social) and the Popular
Democratic Party (PPD – Partido Popular Democrático) were formed.36 The
formation and legalization of political parties to represent the electorate of the centreright and right, the PPD and the CDS, pointed in this direction. A great effort was
made to exclude from these parties any persons associated with the New State and
find leaders with democratic credentials. Indeed, the CDS, which integrated sectors of
Portuguese society that espoused conservative authoritarian values, was on the verge
of being declared illegal up until the first elections for the Constituent Assembly on
25 April 1975.
The overthrow of General Spínola, along with the MFA’s shift to the left and the
implementation of agrarian reforms and nationalization of large economic groups,
were both symbols and motors of an ever worsening state crisis that was sustaining
powerful social movements. The MFA’s decision to respect the electoral calendar was
a significant factor in the founding legitimization of the democratic regime and the
realization of these elections as scheduled greatly enhanced the position of the
moderate political parties.
It is too simplistic to consider the ‘hot summer’ of 1975 simply as an attempt by the
Portuguese Communist Party (PCP – Partido Comunista Português) to impose a new
dictatorship with the support of the Soviet Union. Naturally, the democratic political
elite made much of this argument in its founding discourse, but this does not provide
a full explanation of events. The situation was more complex: conflict was fed by the
development of strong grass roots political organizations such as the workers’
commissions, the growing challenge posed by the extreme left during the crisis, and
its influence within the military. At the same time extreme left wing journalists
‘occupied’ the Catholic radio station, Rádio Renascença and the newspaper
República, which up until then had been the mouthpiece of the moderate left, and
houses, shops and factories were occupied throughout Lisbon.37 The importance of
internal divisions within the armed forces in driving these events forward means that
they cannot be explained as part of a ‘programmed conspiracy.’
Portuguese society began to polarize, with the emergence of an anti-revolutionary
(and anti-Communist) movement in the north of the country.38 It was in this context
of increasing mobilization, on 25 November 1975, that moderate MFA officers
organized a successful counter coup that toppled the radicals. The Socialist Party (PS
– Partido Socialista) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD – Partido Social
Democrática) backed the moderates, leading mobilizations in Lisbon and Oporto. In
the provinces to the north of the River Tagus, the hierarchy of the Catholic church and
local notables supported parish level mobilizations, with the local military authorities
remaining neutral and/or with them being complicit in the activities. As elements of
the extreme right and right, military officers and civilians alike began to mobilize, the
anti-left offensive became violent. Attacks were made on the offices of the PCP, the
extreme left and associated unions, and there emerged right-wing terrorist
organizations, the Democratic Movement for the Liberation of Portugal (MDLP –
Movimento Democrático para a Liberação de Portugal), and the Portuguese
Liberation Army (ELP – Exército para a Liberação de Portugal).39
In 1974-1975 Portugal experienced significant foreign intervention not only in
diplomatic terms, but also affecting the formation of political parties, unions and
interest organizations, as well as shaping the anti-left strategy that evolved over the
‘hot summer’ of 1975. The Portuguese case was a divisive issue in international
organizations, within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the
European Economic Community (EEC), affecting relations between these two
organizations and the Socialist Bloc countries led by the Soviet Union. All the
evidence makes it clear that in 1974-1975 Portugal was an issue of ‘international
Caught by surprize with the coup, the international community, and the United States
in particular, focused on supporting democratic political forces of the centre left and
right in the capital, as well as on intervening in the rapid process of de-colonization,
particularly in Angola.40 The same post-Second World War methods deployed to deal
with Italy were used in the Portuguese case. The moderate political parties were
financed by the US administration, which together with the international
organizations of the European ‘political families – these often mediating the US role –
also supported the training of party cadres.41 The impact of foreign aid, however, was
limited. They were drowned out by the powerful political and social mobilization led
by the left, an economy strongly marked by a large nationalized sector, as well as
capital flight and the actual flight of members of the economic elite from the country.
Although domestic political factors played a critical role in enabling both the triumph
of moderate civilian forces and the final withdrawal of the military from the political
arena, international support was more important than the early literature on the
The nature of the transition, and especially the State crisis that this unleashed, is
essential for explaining some of its more radical characteristics, as well as some of the
attitudes with respect to the country’s authoritarian past during this period. Both
flowed together into a double legacy for the consolidation of democracy.
Settling accounts with the dictatorship: Portuguese ‘transitional justice’
Only a few months after the coup, Portuguese transitional justice expressed all the
contradictory faces of an attempt to punish the authoritarian elites and the agents of
and collaborators in the dictatorship’s repression. The second wave of score settling
reached the economic and entrepreneurial elites. Most of the real and symbolically
punitive measures against the most visible and better known collaborators took place
between 1974 and 1975, before establishment of the new legitimated democratic
institutions. This was a period that was marked by the State crisis, powerful social
movements and military intervention that shaped social attitudes regarding the
punishment of those associated with the old regime, and in which the judiciary played
almost no role.
The non-hierarchical nature of the coup, with the almost immediate intervention of
the democratic elite and popular mobilization, accentuated both the real and the
symbolic break with the past. The brief resistance offered by those forces most
associated with the dictatorship’s repression, such as the political police and the antiCommunist militia, the Portuguese Legion (LP – Legião Portuguesa), and the
imprisonment of many of the former organization’s members was a significant
element driving the political movement for their criminalization.
The first measures implemented by General Spínola’s National Salvation Junta (JSN Junta da Salvação Nacional), which was in full accordance with the MFA Programme,
provided for a minimal and swift purge of the Armed forces. Members of the former
regime who wished to join Marcello Caetano were immediately deported to Madeira,
from where they almost immediately continued on to exile in Brazil. In this way, the
new government avoided the having to respond to the popular demands that the
former leaders face criminal trials in Portugal. Both the political police and the antiCommunist LP, which had attempted to resist the April coup, were immediately
disarmed, with some of their leaders being placed in custody. The single party and the
official youth organization were, along with many of the regime’s institutions, closed
down (see Table 1). The MFA proposed that 60 generals, most of who had publicly
declared their support for Marcello Caetano on the eve of his overthrow, should be
placed on the reserve.
Table 1: Repressive and authoritarian political institutions and the actions taken
against them during the transition
President of the Republic
Members of government
Exiled (the majority of
government ministers, including
the Prime Minister)
Popular National Action (single party)
Portuguese Legion (LP)
PIDE (political police)
Shock police (riot police)
Plenary Court (for trying political crimes)
Gremios (Corporatist Interest organizations)
National unions (state run unions)
Abolished and/or reorganized
Occupied and/or reorganized
The main demand, which was nearly unanimous, was to ensure criminal trials of
elements of the political police. These demands were made as a consequence of the
military coup’s own dynamics and the surrounding of the political police’s
headquarters in Lisbon, which resulted in the surrender and arrest of many of the
agents who had been in the building. Some attempts made were to ensure the survival
of the political police in the colonies, given the collaboration between them and the
Armed forces; however, the organization was eventually abolished. Many former
agents remained prisoners, whilst many others fled the country within days of the
It did not take long for the new authorities to create the Comissão de Extinção da
PIDE-DGS, MP e LP (CEPML – Commission for the Abolition of the Political
Police, Portuguese Legion and Portuguese Youth), which was led by military officers.
This body immediately began arresting people who had acted as informants for the
previous regime’s political police. The life of this commission was agitated. There
were frequent denunciations of political manipulation by extreme left-wing groups
and the PCP. The role of the commission was to prepare criminal proceedings of the
trial of former police agents and to co-operate with other purge institutions, given its
monopolistic access to the about three million files kept on individual citizens. In July
1975, Constitutional Law 8/75 provided for the trial in a military tribunal of members
of the political police and government officials directly responsible for repression on
the basis of a ‘revolutionary legitimacy’ referred to in the preamble. The law also
provided sentences of 2 to 12 years, and no statute of limitations was established for
At the local level, the Portuguese Democratic Movement (MDP – Movimento
Democrático Português), which was a front organization linked to the PCP, took over
local posts at the city council level and removed former regime leaders from their
posts. Several of the authoritarian regime’s union organizations (sindicatos nacionais)
were taken over by the workers, who removed the former leaders from their positions.
The first public statements by left-wing political parties were generally quite cautions
regarding the issue of purges. The PS and the PCP both issued moderate statements.
The first purges were spontaneous, with strikers calling for purges within businesses.
Some professors and bureaucrats in the universities of Lisbon and Coimbra who had
collaborated with the former regime were almost immediately denied access to their
faculties by student associations.
In response to these movements, the provisional government promulgated the first
regulations on public administration purges. Two months after the fall of the old
regime, the Inter-ministerial Purge and Reclassification Commission (CIMSR –
Comissão Inter-Ministerial de Saneamento e Reclassificação) was created. It
answered directly to the Council of Ministers and was charged with co-ordinating
existing purge commissions or with creating new ones to cover all the ministries.
Decree Law 277, dated 25 June 1974, charged it with the scrutiny of behaviour that
‘contradicted the post- 25 April 1974 established order’.44 These commissions
remained active until 1976 and the legislation governing them was revised several
times in order to keep up with the radicalization of the political situation. Decree Law
123 of 11 March 1975 already referred to the former regime as a ‘fascist regime’ and
subjected civil servants to purges for acts committed during the dictatorship.45 That
same month, when General Spínola fled the country, a generalized anti-capitalist
sentiment emerged, resulting in a renewed wave of purges.
In February 1975 official reports on the purge process stated that approximately
12,000 people had been either removed from their posts or suspended, either legally
or illegally.46 It is estimated that between March and November 1975 the number of
removals and suspensions must have increased significantly (see Table 2).
Various organizations were involved in the purge process. Aside from the measures
adopted by the JSN and the MFA immediately after the coup, the PCP and the small
but influential parties of the extreme left were the main actors involved. Purge
movements in the private sector and even in the State bureaucracy, however, often
escaped political party control. The establishment of Comissões de Saneamento
(Purge Commissions) within the public administration was approved by the first
provisional governments, which included representatives of the PCP, PS and PSD.
These Commissions sought to establish a legal framework for many of the dismissals
that were taking place as a result of the purges.
Table 2: Elites and forms of punishment
Trial and Administrative Purges, workplace
Formal agent Governmental and officialMilitary tribunal and
The Workers’ Commissions (Comissões de Trabalhadores) often called for purges.
These were established within businesses independently of the unions, and the PCP
shared control of these bodies with the parties of the extreme left. These commissions
implemented the great majority of ‘wild’ purges, which the PCP often did not control.
Generally speaking, the purge process was not governed by a clear strategy and
revealed no coherent pattern, varying great from sector to sector. The concept of
‘collaborator’ also shifted during the pre-constitutional period. In 1974, the first
purges were limited by a strict concept of collaborationist. By 1975, however, various
types of authoritarian attitudes amongst the industrial and entrepreneurial elite were
considered to be associated with the former regime.
The armed forces
For obvious reasons, the first institution to undergo a purge process was the military.
Immediately after the coup, the MFA handed General Spínola the names of the 60
generals who had pledged their allegiance to the authoritarian regime, and who were
subsequently placed on the reserve by the JSN. The purge of the Armed forces was
part of the political programme of the MFA and, against the wishes of General
Spínola, the process widened to affect a greater number of officers. The first list was
composed of persons deemed to have given political support to Marcello Caetano
during a political act in March 1974, the eve of the coup, against the clandestine MFA
as well as generals Spínola and Costa Gomes.
In the months that followed the 1974 coup, special military commissions administered
the purges demanded by the MFA. By October 1974, 103 navy officers had been
removed from active service and placed on the reserve.47 By the end of the year, 300
officers of all ranks and from all three services had been removed from active duty.
Incompetence became the official criteria for removal, as it became impossible to
sustain political criteria such as ‘collaboration with the old regime’, given that the
whole defence establishment had collaborated with the New State during the colonial
When General Spínola went into exile after the attempted coup of March 1975, the
purge movement was reinforced, and the majority of the officers working with him
were removed from their posts. The purges also affected the National Republican
Guard (GNR – Guarda Nacional Republicana), a militarized police body. The Council
of the Revolution, the MFA’s supreme body, issued Decree Law 147C of 21 March
1975, which stated that any officers who did not ‘obey the principles espoused by the
MFA’ would be placed in the reserve.49
With the consolidation of democracy, and as a result of the profusion of military
movements during the transitional period, more officers were removed from the active
list or subjected to processes that removed them from the armed forces and forced
them into exile. Following the victory of the moderates within the MFA, those
officers who had been associated with revolutionary left-wing movements or with the
Communist Party were dismissed. Sympathizers of these parties within the armed
forces were removed from their posts, while others went into exile in Angola and
Mozambique, by that time governed by socialist regimes. After the dissolution of the
Council of the Revolution, some MFA leaders were also forced to leave the armed
forces, although many were reintegrated only to be immediately placed on the reserve
as a consequence of extremely drawn out judicial processes that continued into the
The military was the institution where a break with the past was clearest.50 A new
generation quickly rose to the top ranks of the force as the old elite associated with the
New State had been forced to retire. The institutionalization of democracy in Portugal
therefore entailed an important change in the life of military officers and it was here
that the impact of the transition was most sharply felt.
Purging the civil service
The first legislation stated that civil servants could be purged for three reasons: nondemocratic behaviour in the course of duty after the coup, inability to adapt of the
new democratic regime, and incompetence. The minimum punishment was to be
transferred to another post, while the maximum was dismissal.51 Maximum penalties
were applied according to priorities defined a little later by the government:
membership of the dictatorship’s governmental elite; political police collaborators;
leading members of either the MP, the LP or the single party; and the heads of the
dictatorship’s censorship board.52 The purge process was directed by the various
commissions and presented to the CIMSR, which ratified the penalty to be applied, in
each case implemented by the head of the relevant ministry. As a result of the protests
of both the trade unions and commission members against the indecision and the slow
pace and bureaucratic nature of the purges led to the adoption of new legislation in
March 1975. This new law provided for purges based on individual political
behaviour before the fall of the authoritarian regime.
It is difficult to determine how the purges affected the state bureaucracy on a
quantitative level. The process evolved different from ministry to ministry, depending
on the level of pressure from the trade unions and the limits imposed by the
legislation. At the end of 1974, eight months after the coup, about 4,300 public
servants had been subjected to a purge process.53 According to the global analysis
made by the commission that co-ordinated the process, the action of the various
ministerial commissions was very uneven, depending on the party to which the
minister belonged and the degree of public opinion and trade union pressure.
One of the least affected was the Ministry of Justice, particularly magistrates and the
political courts of the dictatorship, the ‘plenary courts.’ A good part of the moderate
left elite associated with the PS was made up of lawyers that had participated in the
political trials of the New State, either as the accused or as defence lawyers,
particularly of communist activists. At the same time, the Salazarist elite had a large
component of law professors, and the regime had always obsessively attempted to
legitimate its acts in juridical terms.54 Both these elements would lead one to believe
that pressure to criminally try the legal elite could be high, but this is not the case.
Institutional factors and the moderation of socialist leaders were important factors
counteracting this impetus to purge the legal profession and ministry of justice.
Additional obstacles limited the purge of magistrates, such as the autonomy of the
judiciary and the fact that the first ministers did not promote purges. In response to
public criticism, the Secretary of the Purge Commission of the Ministry of Justice
recognized that it was not ‘necessary or viable to undertake deeper purges at this
Out of a body of 500 magistrates, 42 judges were submitted to a purge process in
1974-75, most of them for participating in political courts or holding government
posts or posts within censorship bodies.56 Two years later, some of the most well
known judges that had been dismissed or forcibly retired were re-integrated by the
Commission for the Assessment of Purge Appeals and Reclassifications (CARSR –
Comissão de Análise de Recursos de Saneamentos e de Reclassificação). Two judges
who went through this process were, despite protests from the moderate parliamentary
left, appointed to the Supreme Court of Justice.57
The purges undertaken in the Ministry of Labour were more complex, far-reaching
and radical. The new ministry succeeded the old Ministry of Corporations and
Welfare, which had overseen the gigantic corporatist apparatus of the old regime. A
large number of the ‘wildcat’ purges were ‘legalized’ by the inclusion in the purge
law not only of people that had maintained a formal relationship with the PIDE-DGS
but also all the persons who had in one way or another collaborated with the political
police. In addition, nationalization and the intervention of the state in various private
enterprises meant that the majority of forced removals took place in this sector, which
was also the most marked by the anti-capitalism of the social movements.
Purges in the Ministry of Education, and throughout the education system as a whole,
were also high, particularly in the universities. Famous university professors and
schoolteachers, as well as writers formed a part of the purge commission for this
sector. The JSN removed all university deans, directors of faculties from their posts,
and various high-ranking members of the Ministry were transferred. In the secondary
schools, the more radical actions by the student movement forced the military to
intervene to protect the accused. It was in the universities, however, that both legal
and ‘wild’ purges were most thorough, given the very strong pressure exerted by the
student movement. Some members of the commissions quickly resigned in protest
against the ‘wild’ purges, which were undertaken sometimes in the absence of any
Students would simply deny some professors entry to the university following
assembly votes, although only a small minority of those ‘condemned’ were ever
submitted to legal purge proceedings by the purge commission of the Ministry of
Education. The same applied to some schoolteachers suspected of collaborating with
the political police. The most radical of the ‘wildcat’ purges took place in the Faculty
of Law of the University of Lisbon, where an assembly dominated by a Maoist party
decided, against the will of PCP students, to remove some professors who were also
members of the Council of State and leaders of conservative parties.
The repression of the pro-democratic student movement in the final years of the
dictatorship, as well as the authoritarian behaviour of many professors, explains some
of these ‘wild’ purges. Legal purge proceedings against professors and education
workers were more solidly based on two criteria: holding high level posts under the
dictatorship or collaboration with repression by the political police by denouncing
students and opposition professors. As in the Ministry of Labour, the latter category
was the most sought after, and purges also affected people in the lower ranks who
gave information to the PIDE-DGS.
Some professors affected by the purges went into other professional activities and
others immigrated to Brazil. When the government introduced the numerus clausus,
thereby conditioning access to the state university system, some of the professors that
had been removed from their posts in 1974 became involved in the creation of private
universities, although the large majority was later reintegrated into the state system.
Within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the purge process was limited to a few
members of the diplomatic corps who had had government posts under the
dictatorship. When he was nominated Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Socialist Party
leader, Mário Soares, merely transferred some ambassadors and the purge
commission, although fully constituted, only worked in some consulates where
collaboration with the political police had been most notable. This was the case in
Brazil and France, for example, where the consulates had been involved in controlling
the activities of political exiles in countries with large Portuguese immigrant
In total, purges within the state apparatus were uneven and limited. Where strong
trade union and worker commission pressure was exerted, as in the ministries of
labour and education, forced removals were more frequent. Indeed, while reports
indicate that most of the people purged belonged to the higher levels of the
administration, in these cases lower ranking civil servants were also affected,
particularly for collaboration with the political police. Long delays in purge
proceedings, however, reduced the overall scope of the process and made it possible
to undertake the rapid re-integration of various people a few years later. Nonetheless,
important changes did occur at the top levels of the state administration. While many
were reintegrated between 1976 and 1980, the great majority never regained the
strategic posts they had previously held.
Rupture at the local level
It is much harder to assess the break at the local level. On 24 April 1974 there were
thousands of people running the 304 municipalities and more than 4,000 parish
councils. In the first months following the coup, the JSN and the Ministry of the
Interior designated provisional administrative commissions. The nominations
legitimated taking the power of local members of the main democratic opposition
parties. The MDP was the main purge agent at the local level. This party had
succeeded the Democratic Electoral Commission (CED – Comissão Democrática
Eleitoral), which in 1969 had obtained a significant majority in opposition to the
Electoral Coalition for Democratic Unity (CEUD – Coligação Eleitoral de Unidade
Democrática), the electoral front linked to the PS and the republicans. The MDP was
dominated by the PCP, but also had the support of independents, notables of the local
During the ‘hot summer’ of 1975, anticommunist action led to the fall of various
administrative commissions, which became increasingly isolated in the central and
northern parts of the country. The parties of the centre-right and the PS itself were
poorly organized in 1974.58 They lacked proper party structures and it was only later
during the pre-electoral period that they began to call for positions at the local level.
Given the lack of data, it is difficult to measure the levels of continuity and rupture
within the local administration. Moreover, whilst constitutional legislation barred all
leading local politicians associated with the dictatorship from standing as candidates
for the first elections, it must have had a limited impact. 59
The economic elite
During the first two years of the transition, the economic elite was hard hit by the
process of nationalization and state intervention, as well as by the flight of
industrialists and entrepreneurs from the country. Despite attempts to reach an
understanding between General Spínola and the leaders of the main economic groups,
strike movements and a strong impetus towards state intervention led to the first wave
of self-exiles. Some of the most important illegal purge processes were also initiated
against members of the economic elite, visibly frightening them.
Table 3: Cause of industrial disputes (May 1974–February 1975)
Log of claims
Threat of closure
Source: Rafael Durán Muñoz, Acciones Colectivas y Transiciones a la Democrácia: España y
Portugal, 1974-77, (Madrid: Centro de Estúdios Avanzados em Ciências Sociales, 1997), p.128.
As we have noted above, demands for purges were among the most significant causes
of industrial disputes during the weeks immediately following the coup (see Table 3).
The ‘symbols of rupture’ signalled with the dismissal of most of the dictatorship’s
political elite as well as with the criminalization of the political police were important;
however, purges of the administrations of both public and private companies, was
rapidly transformed into a component of collective action that increasingly assumed
radical traits. It is interesting to note that, 73 per cent of the 102 industrial disputes
that were associated with the purges assumed a radical form, often involving
workplace occupation and worker self-management.60
It was only at the beginning of 1976, with Decree Law 52 of 21 January, that two
purge commissions were given legal status and formal competence to deal with the
banking and insurance sectors, which had been nationalized by then. These
commissions were subordinated to the commission governing purges in the public
sector as a whole. Its main role at this point was to reintegrate those who had been
subjected to the ‘wildcat’ purges without respect for the basic principles of due
The exodus of important members of the economic elite became a common
occurrence in 1975, as did the nomination of new managers for the businesses
intervened by the state. The ‘wild’ purges were concentrated in the large enterprises in
the industrial area around Lisbon and in the banking and insurance sectors. In the
business community, the dynamic overtook any desire to punish any individual’s
collaboration with either the political repression or with New State institutions, and it
became an integral part of a wave of increasingly anti-capitalist social movements that
railed against the business and land-owning elite. In the north of the country there
were fewer ‘wild’ purges due to the relative weakness of the unions and the workers
The nationalization strategy aimed to dismantle the large economic groups and to give
the state control over the main sectors of the Portuguese economy. Apart from direct
nationalization, the state indirectly controlled various businesses for a fixed period.
The 1976 Constitution confirmed the nationalization process but reduced the level of
intervention. A study allows one to conclude that 19 per cent of industrialists
abandoned their posts (2 per cent were purged), and that the purges essentially
affected the industrial area in Lisbon and Setúbal, hardly affecting the northern textile
sector.63 Brazil was the preferred exile destination although many returned to Portugal
between 1976 and 1980. When Mário Soares as Prime Minister of the first
constitutional government visited Brazil in 1976, he called for the return of the
members of the economic elite that had fled the country.
Thus, the wave of nationalization, purges and forced resignations of the preconstitutional period profoundly affected the entrepreneurial sector. Most of its
members were reintegrated between 1976 and 1980, but nationalization caused long
lasting changes in the Portuguese economic system, a key legacy of the transition to
The print and broadcast media
The relationship between the state, the economic elite and the media underwent a
profound transformation during the transition period.64 The administrative and
management bodies of radio and television stations, as well as the main newspapers
were removed from their posts. Only a few directors of privately owned newspapers,
already in the hands of the opposition under the old regime, were able to hang on to
their posts. While the first purges were driven by the military, the main purge agents
in this sector were journalists and typographers linked to the PCP and other extremeleft organizations that maintained this position of dominance until 25 November 1975.
The censorship services were purged and dissolved. The official dictatorial press had
had a limited circulation, circumscribed to members of the state bureaucracy for the
most part. The newspaper of the single party, artificially sustained through an official
subscription campaign, disappeared immediately after the occupation of its
headquarters. The most important proceedings took place against non-official
newspapers, where journalists and typographers linked to the left wing parties
controlled the purges.
The media as a whole suffered profound changes during the transition process. The
political battle for control over the media had a great impact. The occupation of the
Catholic Church radio station, Radio Renascença, by its own journalists, and the selfmanagement system instituted thereafter, polarized public opinion. This radio station
became an instrument of the extreme left in 1975, until its powerful transmitters were
destroyed on the instructions of the military, and the station returned to the Church.
The newspaper República, met with a similar fate. Of all the daily publications, it was
the only pro-democratic one to continue publishing throughout the duration of New
State. This paper supported the PS and became self-managed after its directors
resigned in 1975, when it became a mouthpiece for the revolutionary left until its old
directors were restored to their previous position in 1976. While the Communists
were not responsible for any of these events, the moderate left associated with the PS
made the ‘República Case’ one of their most successful ‘anti-totalitarian’ campaigns.
They succeeded in associating the ‘Republica Case’ with the threat of a PCP takeover of power.
After the nationalization of the various economic groups that had controlled a
substantial part of the print media, most of the press came under state control. Later,
during the peak of the process of political radicalization, new newspapers emerged
that were supported by the moderate left and the parties of the right, which reemployed some of the previously purged journalists. Many of these new newspapers
relied, initially, on financial support from the Western democracies.
Voluntarism and memory
In 1974-75 various civic and state mobilization initiatives were promoted to denounce
the authoritarian legacy and to ‘democratize’ certain sections of Portuguese society.
Such was the nature of the Cultural Action Campaigns (CDC – Campanhas de
Dinamização Cultural) that were developed by the MFA in collaboration with leftwing civilians and parts of the Student Civic Service (SCE – Serviço Cívico
Estudantil). The government also created the Black Book Commission on Fascism,
which was responsible to the presidency of the Council of Ministers and which was
composed of socialist and left-republican intellectuals and politicians. With access to
all of the dictatorship’s archives, this Commission published dozens of books
containing primary documentation, which, amongst other issues, denounced the
regime’s repression, the treatment of political prisoners, censorship and the
collaboration between economic groups and the political police. When it was
dissolved in 1991 it was supposed to lead to the creation of a ‘museum of resistance’,
a project that has yet to be realized. Other initiatives that were more emblematic of the
1974-75 period, but which were associated with the political parties as well as civil
society and popular organizations, was, for example, the creation of the ‘Humberto
Delgado Popular Tribunal (Tribunal Popular Humberto Delgado).
The CDCs were intended to ‘democratize’ the rural world. Whilst established by the
MFA, the campaigns were driven by left-wing intellectuals and communists, who
designed cultural initiatives that denounced the repression of the past and promoted
civic participation. Believing that these campaigns were little more than an attempt by
the military to create its own propaganda department, these movements were
immediately resisted by the northern conservative elites and criticized by the
moderate political parties. Consequently, the campaigns were interrupted in the
central and northern districts before they were finally abolished following the events
of 25 November 1975, and the dissolution of the PCP dominated Fifth Division.
The SCE was a product of two interrelated factors: the university system’s incapacity
to accept all of the candidates for higher education that was a direct consequence of a
rapidly expanding secondary school system, and an ideological climate that promoted
contact between students and ‘the people’. For one academic year before entering
university, students were encouraged to work on literacy and other similar projects in
the local communities. One of the projects that they were involved in was the
collection of ethnographic material on popular memory. This material was intended to
serve as the basis for a museum exhibiting oral and material memories of the popular
resistance of the ‘peasants and the labourers’ to the New State.65
Both the SCE and the CDCs met with resistance (albeit for different reasons),
particularly in the north of the country where conservative notables and priests were
particularly suspicious of left-wing initiatives, and where the urban middle classes
feared the consequences of students escaping the control of the family. The CDCs
were closed down in 1975, with the Education Ministry abolishing the SCE shortly
The Humberto Delgado Popular Tribunal was established to examine the regime’s
most notorious crime when, in 1965, the PIDE assassinated the dissident general,
Humberto Delgado, near the Spanish town of Badajoz. Delgado had stood against
Salazar’s candidate in the 1958 presidential elections, afterwards fleeing into exile.
The dictatorship consistently denied any involvement in the general’s murder, while
the family’s first lawyer was one of the regime’s leading opponents, Mário Soares.
Established after the transition, the tribunal sought to mobilize public opinion to call
for the conviction of those former PIDE agents who had committed the crime, and
who had since fled justice. In the end, those responsible for the assassination were
tried and convicted in absentia.
The Constituent Assembly discussed a large range of proposals that were to lead to
the criminalization of both the authoritarian elite and the dictatorship’s agents of
repression. With the exception of the temporary measures introduced to ensure the
prosecution of PIDE agents, in terms of punitive measures against the old regime, the
only legal legacy of the transition was the introduction in the 1976 Constitution that
prohibited parties with a ‘fascist ideology’. This was retained after subsequent
constitutional revisions and in the 1990s, despite criticisms regarding its usefulness, it
was not only ratified by the parliament but was even used against a group of the
As we have seen above, the military, political, administrative and economic elite were
all deeply affected, albeit to different extents, by the measures introduced during the
first two years of the transition to punish them for their collaboration with the
previous regime (see Table 4)
Table 4: Phases of transition and democratic consolidation and the purge
Fall of dictatorship
April 1974-March 1975
+ Legal Purges
- ‘wild’ purges
March 1975-April 1976
+ Legal Purges
+ ‘wild’ purges
April 1976-October 1982
Reduction of penalties
As Table 4 shows, this is a form of ‘immediate transitional justice’,66 that happens
very quickly during the two transitional phases and democratic consolidation marked
the beginning of the process of rehabilitation. Only the compensation of the ‘antifascists’ will be discussed below as the legacy of the colonial war and subsequent
decolonization was to drag on for the next 30 years.
The dual legacy and the consolidation of democracy
The moderate elite that dominated the period of consolidation inherited a complex
situation in 1976. The military intervention of 25 November 1975 marked the
beginning of the process of democratic institutionalization, although one that was
under the tutelage of the Council of the Revolution until 1982. In the economic
sphere, a heavily nationalized sector and extensive state interventionism, along with
the introduction of severe austerity measures following the first Portuguese agreement
with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), became symbols of recession and
resulted in a drastic reduction in real salaries. In the social arena, the return of
hundreds of thousands of colonial refugees as a result of the decolonization process
brought problems. Some extreme-right wing terrorist actions continued briefly – a
legacy of the ‘hot summer’ of 1975. This was soon to be joined by some extreme-left
wing terrorist activity.
Table 5: Legacies of the transition to democracy
Ideologically left-wing constitution
Military prerogative – Council of the Revolution
Economic elite in exile
Partial paralysis of the police and judicial system
The official discourse of the first two constitutional governments led by the socialist
Prime Minister, Mário Soares, and by the first democratically elected President
Ramalho Eanes, favoured ‘reconciliation’ and ‘pacification.’
Under pressure from parties on the right and centre-right, the purges were soon
brought to an end and their role re-evaluated in light of the claim that they were an
excess of the early transitional period. At the same time, a number of communists and
as well as left wing civilians and military figures were removed from office. Many
members of extreme-left parties and the PCP were dismissed from their positions
within the civil service and state owned companies. Soldiers associated with the
former Prime Minister, Vasco Gonçalves, and the leader of the MFA’s militant
faction, Otelo Saraiva do Carvalho, were dismissed from the armed forces.
The extreme-right wing terrorism of the MDLP and ELP was largely carried out by
military officers – both active and retired. The actions of these groups came to an end
a few years later and they were soon to dissolve following General Spínola’s return
from exile. Whilst some of their members were jailed, the majority of cases dragged
on for years and resulted in vendettas, given their extensive links with moderate
elements during the hot summer of 1975 and the promises made to them that their
crimes would be ‘forgotten’. The repression of the extreme-left wing terrorist group,
the Popular Forces of 25 April (FP-25), which involved the 25 April coup’s
operational chief and leader of the revolutionary left, Otelo Saraiva do Carvalho, was
a much more complex affair that dragged on right up until the turn of the century.
Despite this outburst of violence, the climate of political reconciliation predominated
in the last years of the 1970s, shaping the way in which the government dealt with the
legacy of the dictatorship. This was particularly true with the trial of members of the
former regime’s political police, the PIDE-DGS. Following the so-called ‘PIDE hunt’,
in which those who had not fled the country were tracked down, there followed a two
year period during which PIDE-DGS agents awaited their trial and punishment, either
in protective custody or on conditional release. Their trials were conducted according
to the new post-revolutionary political ethos, and as a result, those who had not taken
advantage of their bail to flee the country received only light sentences from the
military tribunals (normally they were sentenced to time already served). Those who
had good military active service reports from the colonial war period received
especially benevolent treatment. Although there were public demonstrations and
criticism of the sentences meted out, they did serve as notice that judicial legality and
the rule of law had been re-established following the ‘excesses’ of the turbulent years,
1974-75. The two years that had passed since then had seen a significant diminution
of 1974’s revolutionary ‘emotions’, and the ruling political elite made it clear that
they favoured continuing with institutional demobilization.
Between 1976 and the early-1980s, steps were taken to reintegrate those who had
been victims of the purges.67 New legislation was passed and measures were quickly
adopted to normalize the situation in the economic arena where the ‘wild’ purges had
been most severe. Soon after the introduction of these new laws, the Council of the
Revolution ordered ‘all officials of the armed forces who had been assigned to the
purge commissions in private enterprises’ to return to their barracks.68 The
government followed this up with a series of measures designed to facilitate the return
of exiles and business administrators who had been forced out by the purges. Decreelaw 471 of 14 June 1976 declared that the ideologically motivated purges realized by
workers in the private and public sectors between 1974 and 1976, and ‘which had not
observed’ the laws that were then in force, were legally null and void.69
Taking advantage of the new situation, the victims of the purges organized themselves
into the Movement for the Reintegration of the Unfairly Dismissed (MPDJC –
Movimento Pró-reintegração dos Despedidos sem Justa Causa), which could count on
the new private newspapers to fight in their corner.70 The trade union movement
protested against the reintegration of those who had been purged by holding strikes
and even some sporadic sit-ins. These actions, which affected mainly the recently
nationalized state enterprises and the civil service, were largely unsuccessful.
The purge commissions in the ministries ceased to operate in 1976 and the Council of
the Revolution, which took on the role of these commissions as well as the leadership
of the CEPML, reinforced legal mechanisms to ensure a process of rehabilitation took
place. A moderate member of the Council of the Revolution, Captain Sousa e Castro,
was given responsibility for the entire process. The CARSR was then created under
the auspices of the Council of the Revolution, and continued in operation until the
mid-1980s, rehabilitating the vast majority of appellants that came before it. This
commission was composed of legally qualified military officials and civilians who
had no links with the dictatorship. According to a report into its activities, the
commission expressed the view that ‘it is necessary to repair the damage that was
done’ during the 1974-75 period when many of the purges were ‘merely arbitrary’.71
Most of those who had been dismissed during the purges had their punishment altered
to compulsory retirement. The remainder often received a payment in lieu of lost
earnings and restoration of their seniority for the purpose of calculating retirement
pension entitlements. In some cases in which trade union or student resistance to the
reintegration was particularly vociferous, those who were to be reintegrated were
simply transferred to other institutions or remained at home until emotions calmed
down before returning to their posts. In some universities reintegration of those who
had been purged did not begin until the early-1980s. One case, that of Veiga Simão,
former Education Minister of Caetano, was decided by the Council of the Revolution
itself; however, the great majority were left to Sousa e Castro and his CARSR.
Between 1976 and 1978 these commission reassessed 3,351 processes within the
various government ministries and nationalized industries, most of which concerned
officials of the previous regime’s political police. In the case of PIDE-DGS agents,
the CARSR followed the precedent established by the Military Tribunals. These
tribunals had heard the cases against political police agents, and had decided that ‘the
fact that those being tried were former agents of the PIDE-DGS is irrelevant because
it was not illegal in the past to be a member of the political police’. This principal
restored their rights as public employees to them, but only if they had not ‘taken part
in illegal activities’.72
With the abolition of the Council of the Revolution, many of the outstanding appeals
were transferred to the administrative courts, while the CEPML became little more
than a document archive that was responsible to parliament. Parliamentary debates
concerning the future of the archive were often heated and passionate, with some
parties, particularly the CDS, calling for their destruction. Their incorporation into the
national archive and consequent limited release to the public was a controversial
victory for historians and left-wing parties.
The politics of memory in democratic Portugal
An official exhibition on the twentieth century in Portugal was inaugurated in
November 1999, with the sponsorship of the Presidency and the government to
celebrate 25 years of Portuguese democracy. Directed at the public at large and
students, thousands of Portuguese travelled through the dark passages of Salazarism,
through the torture chambers of the political police and corridors lined with
photographs of political prisoners, while opposition figures and the pro-democratic
press were celebrated. There was a threatening corridor dedicated to the colonial war,
which ended in a well lit area celebrating the fall of the dictatorship. Significantly, the
exhibition ended where democracy began. The turbulent period of the first years of
the transition were omitted, represented symbolically by thematic panels which
portrayed the process of social and political change that had taken place in the 25
years since the fall of the Salazar regime.
It would have been very hard for an official exhibition to deal with the transitional
period, given the complex legacy of the first two years of the transition. According to
the official discourse of the PS, led by Mário Soares, and the democratic parties of the
centre-right, Portuguese democracy was shaped by a ‘double legacy’: the
authoritarianism of the right under the New State, and the authoritarian threat of the
extreme left of 1974-1975.73
The impact of the return of right-wing exiles to Portugal, of press campaigns in favour
of those who had been expropriated in 1974-1975, and the search for some
anticommunist ‘military heroes’ was hardly noticeable. By the end of the 1970s, the
situation no longer favoured the political re-conversion of the ‘barons’ of the
dictatorship and of military figures with populist tendencies, who hoped to make
political capital of involvement in anticommunist action in 1975. The process of decolonization, aggravated by the inability to mobilize those returning from Africa,
marked the end of an era for the Portuguese radical right.
The relatively peaceful process of reintegrating the returning colonists was not merely
a consequence of the ‘quiet habits’ ascribed to the Portuguese, or of state support. It
was also a product of the nature of the white community in Africa, such as its
relatively recent settlement in the colonies and the concomitant maintenance of family
ties in Portugal.74 Emigration to other countries such as South Africa also diminished
the numbers returning and the shock of social absorption.
The abolition of punitive legislation affecting the dictatorial elite and the process of
democratic consolidation encouraged some of the leading figures of the old regime to
return to Portugal. The last president of the New State, Admiral Américo Tomás (who
maintained a ‘political silence’ until his death), as well as some former ministers,
eventually came back to Portugal. Marcello Caetano refused to return from Brazil,
where he died in 1980. None of those who came back wanted to associate themselves
with a possible rebirth of the radical right, and few of them joined the democratic
parties. Some exceptions confirm the rule: Adriano Moreira, former minister for the
colonies, developed a political career under the new democracy. He became a
parliamentary deputy and the Secretary General of the CDS for a short period of time.
Among the Caetano ministerial elite there were a few that became involved in politics
again, but the number is insignificant. Veiga Simão, who designed the policy to
modernize the school system shortly before the fall of the regime, offers one of the
rare examples of a reactivated political career.
By 1985, on the eve of Portugal’s accession to the EEC, the heritage of the double
legacy was practically extinct. There was no party of the right of parliamentary or
electoral significance that represented the old elite or acted as a carrier of
authoritarian values inherited from Salazarism. The legacy of state socialism and
military guardianship had also disappeared after the successive constitutional reforms.
The new democratic institutions associated themselves with the legacy of political
opposition to the dictatorship. The semi-presidential nature of the political system,
and the fact that, first General Ramalho Eanes, and then two presidents who had been
active in the anti-Salazar struggle (Mário Soares and Jorge Sampaio) have been
important symbolically in reinforcing the anti-dictatorial nature of the new regime.
During the first 30 years of democracy, successive Presidents of the Republic have
posthumously rehabilitated many of the dictatorship’s victims and awarded members
of the anti-Salazar opposition awards such as the Order of Freedom. The most
emblematic of these awards was granted to General Humberto Delgado, whose
military honours were posthumously restored. Streets and other public places were
renamed after famous opposition figures – republicans, communists and socialist alike
– while Salazar’s name was removed from all public monuments, squares and the
bridge over the Tagus, which was quickly renamed Ponte 25 de Abril (25 April
Attempts to compensate those activists who had struggled against the dictatorship
were made from the 1970s onwards, although some of the proposals did not receive
parliamentary approval.75 Members of the opposition to the Dictatorship had to wait
until 1997, and the introduction of the Socialist Party government’s legislation
enabling them to seek compensation, in terms of social security and retirement
pension entitlements, for the years they remained clandestine or in exile.76 However,
in order to qualify, the claimants must be able to provide evidence of their persecution
in the records held in the PIDE archive, and this is not always easy.77
Another aspect of the attempt to symbolically delegitimize the authoritarian past was
the alteration of national holidays. The date of the republican revolution, 5 October
1910 (the republic had never been abolished by the dictatorship), assumed greater
significance, while the 28 May holiday, which celebrated the military coup of 1926,
was replaced with a new holiday on 25 April, celebrating the foundation of the new
In Portugal the creation of museums about repression and the dictatorship are notably
absent. All such projects presented in the first two years of the transition were
abandoned due to a lack of interest within civil society, including political parties
such as the PS or the PCP, or a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the state. A project to
turn the Commission on the Black Book on the Fascist Regime into a Museum of the
Resistance failed to garner the support of the centre-right government of Cavaco Silva
in 1991. Some modest initiatives were undertaken by city councils run by PS-PCP
coalitions, such as the Lisbon council in the 1990s. The so-called Museum of the
Republic and Resistance is a case in point. It was only towards the end of the 1990s
that private foundations were created with the explicit aim of consolidating the
memory of resistance of Salazarism and the transition to democracy. Such is the case
of the Mário Soares Foundation, established after the former president retired. With
the passage of time, the 25 April Association, which is organized by members of the
MFA, has gradually developed both an annual commemoration and has kept the
memory of those who were involved in the coup that brought down the authoritarian
As in other transitions to democracy the fate of the defeated regime’s archives was a
topic of heated debate. Given the nature of the fall of the regime, the military took
possession of the PIDE-DGS archives and these survived almost intact. More
importantly perhaps, the archives of Salazar himself, which were kept in the
headquarters of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers when the dictator died in
1970. This archive, which had been meticulously maintained by Salazar, gives a
unique account of 40 years of Portuguese political life. Both the PIDE-DGS and the
Salazar archives have been deposited in the national archive, where, like all other
New State documents, they are open to public inspection.
Important public debates about the archives began in the 1990s, when these were
opened to the public. One such debate, provoked in 1996 by a former socialist
minister who had been a victim of the PIDE-DGS, centred around return of letters,
photographs and other materials apprehended by the political police to their original
owners or their heirs. Although some defended this course of action during the
parliamentary debates that ensued, the negative reaction of the majority of historians
ensured that the archives remained in the national archive.78
There are also occasional ‘eruptions of memory’ arising from unresolved cases, or
from new revelations by former regime members. For example, in 1998 the leader of
the PIDE unit responsible for Humberto Delgado’s assassination gave an interview to
a Portuguese journalist in which he stated that he regularly travelled to Portugal,
although he had been condemned, in absentia, to eight years’ imprisonment. He was
soon found in Spain, where he had been living under a false name. A Spanish court
prevented the Portuguese authorities from extraditing him, however, and the court that
had originally sentenced him was forced to admit that the statute of limitations
applied, and that he was a free man.
Authoritarianism and the transition in the Portuguese collective memory
The motto, ‘no legacy lasts forever’, does not seem to be applicable to political
culture, and many of the theses concerning apathy, lack of participation and weak
support for democracy tends to be analysed as a legacy of authoritarianism. Hite and
Morlino argue that, given the authoritarian regime’s long duration and the extent of its
‘innovation’, ‘the widespread legacy at mass level, concerning the beliefs and
attitudes towards democratic institutions, is much more difficult to overcome’.79
However, they also recognize the difficulties in making the legacy of the previous
dictatorships operational as a independent variable of in the analysis of attitudes
concerning the new democratic regimes.80
An omniscient state, the culture of passivity, the weakness of civil society, the values
of ‘order’, the culture of deference and the persistence of clientelism are certainly
legacies affecting the ‘quality’ of Portuguese democracy; legacies that are also present
in other Southern European democracies.81 Forty years of dictatorship has certainly
left its mark, but it is a legacy that is diffuse and difficult to interpret. Many of its
aspects are confused with certain historical legacies that have seeped into the
What follows is only a brief analysis of the development of Portuguese attitudes
concerning the country’s authoritarian past and the transition, and may serve as an
indicator of the impact post-authoritarian Portuguese democracy has had in marking
the transition as a positive break with the past and generating popular cultural ‘myths
From the late-1970s, there have been a number of surveys seeking out the Portuguese
attitude to both Salazar and his regime. As is only to be expected, a significant
minority believes that the dictatorship governed the country better.84 In 1985, 13 per
cent of Portuguese retained a ‘positive’ opinion of the authoritarian regime.85
As part of the celebrations of the thirtieth anniversary of democracy, several opinion
polls were commissioned that asked the Portuguese about the nature of the country’s
transition. Early findings suggest that 25 April is deeply rooted in Portuguese society
as an important and positive date in Portugal’s history. Of those questioned in one
survey, 77 per cent stated that they were proud of the manner in which the transition
took place. More importantly, the younger the respondent, the more proud they were.
The majority of Portuguese (52 per cent) believe that the 25 April 1974 coup was the
most important event in the country’s history. When the responses are broken down
by party support, some disagreement is evident, with those on the political right more
likely to believe that membership of the EU or achieving independence from Spain in
the seventeenth century were more significant events.
Table 6: Attitudes about the authoritarian regime and 25 April 1974 (2004) (%)
More positive than negative
As positive as negative
More negative than positive
Don’t know / no reply
25 April 1974
Source: Portuguese Catholic University Opinion Poll, Commission for the Commemoration of the
Thirtieth Anniversary of 25 April 1974.
The New State is negatively perceived while 25 April is viewed positively, with a
minority of 17-14 per cent that believes the dictatorship was a good thing and 25
April as a negative. The authoritarian regime is perceived negatively by all age
groups, with the exception of those who were over 70 years old in 2004, who were
generally neutral. Differences begin to appear when the respondents are analysed
according to party sympathy. It is only to be expected that the negative attitudes
towards the authoritarian regime will decline as opinions move from left to right, with
the supporters of the Popular Party (CDS-PP – Centro Democrático Social-Partido
Popular) being the most inclined to viewing the previous regime in a more positive
light. In total, 62 per cent of CDS-PP supporters characterized the New State as being
just as positive as it was negative. The division between authoritarianism and
democracy is less clear here. What would be interesting to know is whether the
greater neutrality evidenced by CDS-PP supporters represents those who ‘lost out’ in
1974-75, or whether it is a new and discontented electorate. Nevertheless, the large
majority, which includes supporters of the PSD, rejected the authoritarian past. This is
what ought to be emphasized 30 years after the fall of the New State. The fact that
positive attitudes towards the New State are largely restricted to a small right-wing
party is consistent with the responses received regarding the consequences of 25
April. While the great majority of the Portuguese people believe, irrespective of their
age, that the consequences of the ‘revolution’ were more positive than they were
negative, supporters of the CDS-PP are more inclined to disagree with this sentiment.
When questioned on the motivations leading the armed forces to the 1974 coup, the
Portuguese public believes that democratization and the ending of the colonial war
were the main driving forces. Here the young tend to believe that democratization was
a more important factor, while the older respondents place more emphasis on the
desire to bring the war to an end; however, the differences are very small. Thirty years
later and the main actors of the transition have changed their position on the past, and
perhaps even part of their motivations.86 The example that is provided by the military
officers who led and participated in the 1974 coup is interesting. Most Portuguese
believe that their motives were end the colonial war and to install democracy. Of the
officers involved in planning and executing the coup, almost 90 per cent now, 30
years later, say that their main intention was to establish a democratic regime, while
70 per cent say that the main intention was to end the war. The negative image that
the process of decolonization holds and the swift adaptation to democracy can perhaps
explain the alterations in the officers’ declared motivations. Even more interesting is
the fact that more young people also think like them today, that their principal desire
was to create a democratic government. The older generation, those who actually
participated in and witnessed the events as they happened, believe that the desire to
end the war was every bit as important to the MFA as the wish to see the
establishment of democracy.
For the first time, one of the surveys included questions on ‘transitional justice’ and
on the judgement of the exiled political leaders of the authoritarian regime before a
Portuguese court. 87 As we have seen above, the defeated regime’s main leaders fled
into exile in order to avoid being held to account. In this case the age and ideological
divisions are much more pronounced, with the youngest age groups believing that the
New State’s leaders ought to be tried in a court of law. Those who lived through the
transition, however, adopt a more moderate position. Here the divisions are significant
between respondents when they are grouped by their political sympathies. PCP
supporters believe that the former leaders ought to be punished, while 57 per cent of
CDS-PP supporters think that it was right to let them leave the country.
Are the cleavages of 1975 still present in Portuguese society after 30 years of
democracy? With the partial exception of PCP supporters, the response is that they are
not. If the 1976 Constitution is perceived to have reflected the left’s overwhelming
domination of the transitional process, the subsequent constitutional revisions have
reflected the influence of the right. The end of the empire, democratic consolidation,
membership of the European Union and the social change that has taken place during
the past 30 years have served to seal many of the cleavages of transition.
Democracy appears to be the preferred regime type of 72 per cent of all Portuguese,
independent of their age or political beliefs. The 25 of April is positively associated
with improvements in the population’s general standard of living. In total, 68 per cent
of all Portuguese believe that Portugal is a better place because of the transition to
democracy. Nevertheless, these same polls indicate that the Portuguese have a low
opinion on the operation and ‘quality’ of their democracy. Comparative studies
indicate that, in Europe, the Portuguese express one of the lowest levels of confidence
in their regime, with 51 per cent believing that it is ‘a democracy with many defects’.
Other surveys have came to the same conclusion.88
The Portuguese case is an illustration of the absence of any correlation between the
nature of the authoritarian regime and the extent of retributive pressure during the
transition process. It is the nature (collapse) of the authoritarian regime’s downfall
and the character of the ‘anti-authoritarian’ coalition during the first provisional
governments that provoked a symbolic break with the past.89 Long before Huntington
had written ‘Guidelines for Democratizers 4’, the new authorities felt that it was
‘morally and politically desirable’ to replace and to punish some members of the
previous elite, and to dissolve the authoritarian institutions, especially because they
had the political opportunity owing to the type of transition.90
Almost immediately, the Portuguese transition eliminated some of the institutional
legacies and more important elite that the dictatorship could have left to democracy.
Not only were the regime’s most important political institutions dissolved, but the
‘authoritarian enclaves’ that had survived many of the transitional processes of the
1970s and 1980s were also eliminated, or were subjected to complex processes that
paralysed them. The dissolution of the more repressive institutions (such as the PIDE,
and the Portuguese Legion) was a fact, and some of them were subjected to processes
that involved purging and criminalising them.
The nature of the transition is certainly the main factor behind the rapid dissolution of
the authoritarian institutions, the criminalization of the political police and the
administrative justice. However, the State crises constituted an important ‘window of
opportunity’ for the Portuguese type of transitional justice: simultaneously radical,
diffuse, and with little recourse to the judicial system. In the Portuguese case,
particularly in the public and private companies, the purges were transformed into a
facet of the social movements’ radicalization. In fact, the State crisis and the
dynamics of the social movements in 1975 exceeded the political punishment of the
authoritarian elite, provoking the greatest ‘fear’ of the twentieth century amongst the
country’s social and economic elite.
The strong correlation between the dynamic of the purges, the State crises and the
‘opportunity structure’ that this afforded is temporally visible: with the 25 November
1975 coup that gave victory to the moderate military, supported by the parties of the
right and centre-left, both legal and illegal purges came to an almost immediate end.
This happened a few months before the new democratic institutions came into being.
As Palacios Cerezales points out: ‘25 November signalled the end of the State crisis
and, with it, the final opportunity for many kinds of collective action’, marking ‘the
passing of a critical and integrated juncture’.91
Elster notes that one of the factors in the diminution of the severity of punishments
after the first phase of the transition was the natural ‘abatement of the desire for
retribution once it had been satisfied by he punishement of some wrongdoers’.92 With
the consolidation of Portugal’s democracy, the parties of the right made some
attempts to criminalize the radical elites of 1975, but an ‘informal agreement’ to
denounce both authoritarianism and the ‘excesses’ of 1975 marked the end of
retroactive justice and the reintegration of a large part of those who had been
Table 7: Authoritarian legacies as constraints on the ‘quality’ of democracy
Regime, institutions and norms
Weak rule of law
Judicial authority with little autonomy
Large public sector
Armed forces’ prerogatives
Radical right-wing groups
Culture and the masses
Non-accountable party elite
Source: Adapted from Katherine Hite and Leonardo Morlino, ‘Problematizing the Links between
Authoritarian Legacies and “Good” Democracy’, in Katherine Hite and Paola Cesarini (eds),
Authoritarian Legacies and Democracy in Latin America and Southern Europe, (Notre Dame:
University of Notre Dame Press, 2004), p.70.
If we ignore the political culture dimension, which we have discussed above, then in
the Portuguese case, the majority of ‘authoritarian legacies’ were more a result of the
nature of the transition than of the authoritarian regime (see Table 7). This was
particularly so in the case of the large public sector and in the military prerogatives,
that lasted until the 1980s93 and led scholars such as Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan to
talk of the ‘simultaneous transition completion and democratic consolidation’ in 1982,
which resulted in the complete subordination of the military to democratic political
authority. Democratic consolidation in Portugal faced, therefore, a double legacy.
1. Katherine Hite and Leonardo Morlino, ‘Problematizing the Links between Authoritarian Legacies
and “Good” Democracy’, in Katherine Hite and Paola Cesarini (eds), Authoritarian Legacies and
Democracy in Latin America and Southern Europe, (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press,
2004), p.25. I adopt their definition of authoritarian legacies ‘as all behavioural patterns, rules,
relationships, social and political situations, norms, procedures and institutions either introduced or
patently strengthened by the immediately preceding authoritarian regime’, Ibid, p.26.
2. There is a very large bibliography dealing with ‘transitional justice’ processes, the most recent of
which is by Jon Elster, Closing the Books: Transitional Justice in Historical Perspective, (New
York: Cambridge University Press, 2004). Of interest in relation to a comparative analysis of the
Portuguese case are, as a general introduction to the phenomenon, the pioneering works by John H.
Herz (ed.), From Dictatorship to Democracy: Coping with the Legacies of Authoritarianism,
(Westport and London: Greenwood Press, 1982); James McAdams (ed.), Transitional Justice and
the Rule of Law in New Democracies, (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997);
Alexandra Barahona de Brito, González-Enriquez Cruz and Paloma Aguilar (eds), The Politics of
Memory: Transitional Justice in Democratising Societies, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).
3. Samuel Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, (Norma and
London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), p. 215.
4. John Borneman, Settling Accounts. Violence, Justice and Accountability in Postsocialist Europe,
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), p.141.
5. Kieran Williams, Brigid Fowler and Aleks Szczerbiak, ‘Explaining Lustration in Central Europe: A
'Post-communist Politics’ Approach’, Democratization, Vol.12, No.1 (2005), pp.22-43.
6. Jon Elster, Closing, p.75. To be more precise, we are dealing with ‘the political decisions that were
taken immediately following the transition and which were directed at individuals who were
responsible for decisions made or implemented under the old regime’. See Jon Elster, ‘Coming to
Terms with the Past: A Framework for the Study of Justice in the Transition to Democracy’,
Archives Européennes de Sociologie, Vol.39, No.1 (1998), p.14. Elster opposes this to what is
called ‘“postponed transitional justice”, when the first actions are undertaken (say) ten years or
more after the transition’, Closing, p.76.
7. Helga A. Welshm, ‘Dealing with the Communist Past: Central and Eastern European Experiences
after 1990’, Europe-Asia Studies, Vol.48, No.3 (1996), p.419-28. For more on the reconversion of
communist parties, see Anna M. Grzymala-Busse, Redeeming the Communist Past: The
Regeneration of Communist Parties in East Central Europe, (Cambridge: Cambridge University
8. Elster, Closing, p.216.
9. Elster, Closing, p. 62; Paloma Aguilar, ‘Justice, Politics and Memory in the Spanish Transition’, in
Brito, Cruz and Aguilar, pp.92-118.
10. Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern
Europe, South America and Post-Communist Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
11. Williams, Fowler and Szczerbiak, p.33.
12. See especially Linz and Stepan, p.38-65.
13. John P. Moran, ‘The Communist Torturers of Eastern Europe: Prosecute and Punish or Forgive and
Forget?’, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol.27, No.1 (1994), pp.95-101.
14. Marc Osiel defines administrative massacre as ‘large scale violation of basic humans rights to life
and liberty by the central state in a systematic and organized fashion, often against its own citizens,
generally in a climate of war -civil or international, real or imagined’. Marc Osiel, Mass Atrocity,
Collective Memory and the Law, (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transctions Publishers, 2000), p.9.
15. Nancy Bermeo, ‘Democracy after War: Portugal in Comparative Perspective’, paper presented to
the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association (Chicago 2004).
16. Guillermo O’Donnell, Philippe C. Schmitter and Lawrence Whitehead (eds), Transitions from
Authoritarian Rule (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press); Linz and Stepan, Problems;
Geoffrey Pridham, The Dynamics of Democratization: A Comparative Approach, (London:
17. Linz and Stepan, p.117.
18. Gretchen Casper, ‘The Benefits of Difficult Transitions’, Democratization, Vol. 7, No.3 (2000),
19. Hite and Morlino, p.47.
20. Diego Palacios Cerezales, O Poder Caiu na Rua: Crise de Estado e Acções Colectivas na Revolução
Portuguesa, 1974-75, (Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais, 2003).
21. Juan J. Linz, Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes, (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2000).
22. Antonio Costa Pinto, Salazar’s Dictatorship and European Fascism, (New York: SSM-Columbia
University Press, 1996).
23. Robert M. Fishman, ‘Rethinking State and Regime: Southern Europe’s Transition to Democracy’,
World Politics, Vol.42, No.3 (1990).
24. Palacios Cerezales, pp.35-55.
25. For an excellent introduction to the comparative study of the role of social movements in the
Portuguese and Spanish transitions see Rafael Durán Muñoz, Acciones Colectivas y Transiciones a
la Democrácia: España y Portugal, 1974-77, (Madrid: Centro de Estúdios Avanzados em Ciências
26. Paloma Aguilar, ‘Justice, Politics and Memory in the Spanish Transition’, in Brito, Cruz and
Aguilar, Politics of Memory; Nicos C. Alivizatos and P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, ‘Politics and the
Judiciary in the Greek Transition to Democracy’, in James McAdams (ed.), Transitional Justice and
the Rule of Law in New Democracies, (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997),
27. Robert M. Fishman, ‘Legacies of Democratizing Reform and Revolution: Portugal and Spain
Compared’, paper presented to the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association
28. Richard Gunther, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros and Hans-Jürgen Puhle (eds), The Politics of
Democratic Consolidation: Southern Europe in Comparative Perspective, (Baltimore and London:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).
29. Philippe C. Schmitter, ‘The Democratization of Portugal in its Comparative Perspective’, in
Fernando Rosas (ed), Portugal e a Transição para a Democracia, (Lisbon: Colibri, 1999).
30. Norrie MacQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa: Metropolitan Revolution and the
Dissolution of Empire, (London: Longman, 1997); António Costa Pinto, O Fim do Império
Português, (Lisbon: Horizonte, 2001).
31. Tiago Fernandes, Nem Ditadura nem Revolução: A Ala Liberal no Marcelismo (1968-74), (Lisbon:
Dom Quixote, 2005).
32. Leonardo Morlino, Democracy between Consolidation and Crisis: Parties, Groups and Citizens in
Southern Europe, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p.19.
33. Schmitter, p.360.
34. António Costa Pinto, ‘Dealing with the Legacy of Authoritarianism: Political Purges in Portugal’s
Transition to Democracy’, in Stein U. Larsen et al. (ed.), Modern Europe After Fascism, 19451980s, (New York: SSM-Columbia University Press, 1998), pp. 1679-1717.
35. Fátima Patriarca, ‘A Revolução e a Questão Social: Que Justiça Social?’, in Rosas, Portugal e a
36. Thomas C. Bruneu (ed.), Political Parties and Democracy in Portugal: Organizations, Elections and
Public Opinion, (Boulder 1997); Fernando Farelo Lopes and André Freire, Partidos Políticos e
Sistemas Eleitorais: Uma Introdução, (Lisbon: Celta, 2002).
37. John L. Hammond, Building Popular Power: Workers’ and Neighborhood Movements in the
Portuguese Revolution, (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1988); Charles Downs, Revolution at
the Grassroots: Community Organizations in the Portuguese Revolution, (Albany: The State
University of New York Press, 1989).
38. Palacios Cerezales.
39. From June 1975 to April 1976 there were between 100 and 120 attacks on mainly Communist Party
and communist controlled trade union offices. See António Costa Pinto, ‘The Radical Right in
Contemporary Portugal’, in Luciano Cheles et al. (eds), The Far Right in Western and Eastern
Europe, (London: Longman, 1995), pp.108-28.
40. Kenneth Maxwell, The Making of Portuguese Democracy, (Cambridge: Cambridge University
41. Walter C. Opello, ‘Portugal: A Case Study of International Determinants of Regime Transition’, in
Geoffrey Pridham, Encouraging Democracy: The International Context of Regime Transition in
Southern Europe, (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1991), pp.84-102, Nuno Severiano
Teixeira, ‘Between Africa and Europe: Portuguese Foreign Policy’ in António Costa Pinto (ed.),
Contemporary Portugal, (New York: SSM-Columbia University Press, 2004); Rui Mateus,
Memórias de um PS desconconhecido, (Lisbon: Dom Quixote, 1997).
42. The political police in the colonies remained active for the few weeks following the coup as the
military hoped that it could be integrated into a military intelligence police. However, not even the
colonial political police could escape the abolition of their service.
43. Artur Costa, ‘O Julgamento da PIDE-DGS e o Direito (Transitório) à Memória’, in Iva Delgado,
Manuel Loff, António Cluny, Carlos Pacheco and Ricardo Monteiro (eds), De Pinochet a Timor
Lorosae: Impunidade e Direito à Memória, (Lisbon: Cosmos, 2000), pp.39-53.
44. Diário do Governo, Series 1, No.146, p.744.
45. Diário do Governo, Series 1, No.59, p.375.
46. O Século, 27 February 1975.
47. O Século, 1 October 1974. Dinis de Almeida, who was at that time an important figure on the
extreme left of the MFA, divided the purges into four distinct periods. General Spínola and the
MFA led the first series of purges. The second, which was based on the principal of
‘incompetence’, was much slower and more complex. The third, which took place during the spring
and summer of 1975, and involved the removal of right-wing officers. The fourth and final series of
purges took place after 25 November 1975, when left wing officers were removed. See Dinis de
Almeida, Ascenção, Apogeu e Queda do MFA, (Lisbon: Edições Sociais, 1978), pp.39-43.
48. António Costa Pinto, ‘Settling Accounts with the Past in a Troubled Transition to Democracy: The
Portuguese Case’, in Brito, Cruz and Aguilar, pp.65-91.
49. Diário do Governo, Series 1, No.62, p.430-34.
50. Kenneth Maxwell, ‘The Emergence of Portuguese Democracy’, in Herz, pp.231-50.
51. There were four degrees of punishment: transfer to other duties at either the same or a lower grade;
suspension for up to three years; compulsory retirement; and dismissal.
52. Diário Popular, 5 September 1974.
53. O Século, 27 February 1975.
54. António Costa Pinto, ‘Salazar’s ministerial elite’, Portuguese Journal of Social Science, Vol.3, No.2
55. A Capital, 19 April 1975.
56. There were very few purges in bodies that were responsible to the Ministry of Justice: 22 Judicial
Police officers, 16 registrars and notaries, and four prison directors were removed from their
positions. A Capital, 19 April 1975.
57. See the speech delivered by the Socialist Party deputy, Raul Rego. A Luta, 9 February 1977.
58. On the Socialist Party, see Vitalino Canas (ed.), O Partido Socialista e a Democracia, (Oeiras:
59. Constituição da República, 1986, pp.92-93.
60. Durán Muñoz, p.128.
61. Diário do Governo, Series 1, No.17, pp.112-13.
62. Durán Muñoz.
63. Harry Makler, ‘The Consequences of the Survival and Revival of the Industrial Bourgeoisie’, in
Lawrence Graham and Douglas L. Wheeler (eds.), In Search of Modern Portugal: The Revolution
and its Consequences, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983), pp.251-83.
64. Kenneth Maxwell, The Press and the Rebirth of Iberian Democracy, (Westport and London:
Greenwood Press, 1983).
65. Jorge Freitas Branco and Luísa Tiago de Oliveira, Ao Encontro do Povo: 1-A Missão, (Oeiras:
Celta, 1993), Luísa Tiago de Oliveira, Estudantes e Povo na Revolução: O Serviço Cívico
Estudantil, (Oeiras: Celta, 2004).
66. Elster, Closing, p.75.
67. This section owes much to Maria Inácia Rezola who provided me with material concerning the
Council of the Revolution and the purges. For more on this, see Maria Inácia Rezola, ‘O Conselho
da Revolução e a transição para a democracia em Portugal (1974-1976)’, unpublished doctoral
thesis, New University of Lisbon Faculty of Social and Human Sciences (2004).
68. Council of the Revolution, Minutes of a meeting, dated 11 December 1975, Annexes T and P,
Arquivo Nacional Torre do Tombo (ANTT). Sousa e Castro had already been nominated to take
control of the purges, but he only took office after the events of 25 November 1975. See Council of
the Revolution, Minutes of a meeting, dated 31 October 1975, ANTT.
69. Diário do Governo, Series 1, No.138, p.1332.
70. From the Jornal Novo to the Socialist Party’s own newspaper, A Luta.
71. Arquivo Nacional Torre do Tombo/Conselho da Revolução, CARSP, Relatório de Actividades,
73. To my knowledge, the only work dealing with the historical memory of 25 April and the transition
within the most important political parties – the PS and the PSD – is Vasco Campilho, Le Poing et
la Fleche: Étude Comparative des Memoires Historiques de la Revolution des Oeillets au sein du
Parti Socialiste et du Parti Social Democrate, Mémoire de DEA, (Paris: Institut D’Études Politiques
de Paris, 2002).
74. Rui Pena Pires (ed.), Os Retornados: Um Estudo Sociográfico, (Lisbon: IED, 1984).
75. Diário de Notícias, 16 June 1976.
76. Law 20/97, 19 June 1997.
77. According to this law, the claimant must prove that their claim is related to time ‘spent, either
within the country or abroad, during which they were victims of political persecution that impeded
their ability to engage in normal professional activities and prevented their social insertion into the
community because of their membership of a political group, or their participation in political
activities destined to promote democracy’ at any time between 28 May 1926 and 25 April 1974.
78. If the person identified in the case is still alive, or has been dead for less than 50 years, their file
may only be consulted with the permission from the individual concerned, or from their
descendents. The majority of documents, expunged of names, are open for consultation.
79. Hite and Morlino, p.49.
80. Ibid, p.73.
81. Ibid, p.49.
82. Edward Malefakis, ‘The Political and Socio-economic Contours of Southern European History’, in
Gunther, Diamandouros and Puhle, pp. 33-76; Hite and Morlino, pp.25-83.
83. Paola Cesarini ‘Legacies of Injustice in Italy and Argentina’, in Hite and Cesarini, p.161.
84. Thomas C. Bruneau and Alex MacLeod, Politics in Contemporary Portugal: Parties and the
Consolidation of Democracy, (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1986).
85. Leonardo Morlino and José Ramon Montero, ‘Legitimacy and Democracy in Southern Europe’, in
Gunther, Diamandouros and Puhle, p.236.
86. Data from the opinion poll carried out by the Portuguese Catholic University and Público, 25 April
87. See the Portuguese Catholic University opinion poll, Commission for the Commemoration of the
Thirtieth Anniversary of 25 April 1974.
89. For more on the first provisional governments during the Portuguese transition, see Thomas C.
Bruneau, ‘From Revolutions to Democracy in Portugal: The Roles and Stages of the Provisional
Governments”, in Yossi Shain and Juan J. Linz (eds), Between States: Interim Governments and
Democratic Transitions, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp.144-159.
90. Huntington, p.231.
91. Palacios Cerezales, p.176.
92. Elster, Closing, p.228.
93. Hite and Morlino.