Today, April 25, is the anniversary of the Portuguese Revolution of 1974, also known as the Carnation Revolution.
On this day in 1974, Portugal’s 40-year old fascist dictatorship was overthrown, ultimately ushering in parliamentary democracy and the end of Portugal’s colonial wars in Africa, leading to independence for Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and São Tomé e Príncipe.
As hundreds of thousands of people became politically active and workers took over their factories and farms, the overthrow of the regime not only led to the downfall of the Portuguese Empire, but brought Portugal to the brink of a socialist revolution, bringing socialism back on the agenda in Europe for the first time in decades.
Signaled by the playing of the popular anti-fascist song “Grândola, Vila Morena”, left-wing army officers and soldiers of the Movement of the Armed Forces moved against the fascist dictatorship. The military coup had near-universal support among the poor and working class, who came out in the streets in masses to celebrate the overthrow. Women confronted soldiers in the streets of Lisbon and put carnations in the barrels of their guns. Soldiers formerly allied to the dictatorship switched sides en masse.
The overthrow of the dictatorship was an incredible achievement and paved the way for the establishment of basic political rights, the nationalization of a large proportion of the economy and land reform. There was an important relationship between the national liberation movements in Portugal’s colonies and the revolutionary movement within Portugal itself. The anti-colonial wars for independence from Portugal had played a major part in bringing about a revolutionary crisis within Portugal as hundreds of thousands of soldiers radicalized and the brave anti-colonial resistance inspired the Portuguese left. In turn, the Carnation Revolution ended Portuguese resistance to decolonization and cleared the way for independence.
The Mozambican revolutionary Joaquim Chissano said: “April 25 is seen as a great day, a historic day that saw the fall of fascism and contributed to the freedom of all our peoples.”