Socialist Worker

SUV and the disintegration of the Portuguese army

Issue No. 1957

1974: workers joined rebel soldiers for the 100,000 strong May Day demonstration

1974: workers joined rebel soldiers for the 100,000 strong May Day demonstration

One of the most important movements in the army was Soldiers United Will Win (SUV).

Heitor Castro, who organised for a Trotskyist group in SUV, told Socialist Worker, “SUV was born among soldiers in the atmosphere of a very strong class movement in August 1975.

“There were a number of far left groups in favour of democracy in the army. We wanted the election of officers, trade unions for soldiers and to discuss orders from the officers before deciding whether to carry them out or not — especially when we were placed in the streets to replace the police.

“We also demanded that soldiers were not sent to fight in the colonies. We forged solidarity with the liberation movements.

“These demands gained support inside the army when the political climate was very hot.

“The fight began in Porto, Portugal’s second city. I was based there after being expelled from military school at the age of 15. If the revolution had not come I would have been sent to fight in the colonies in September 1974.

“The soldiers went to the streets to have a bigger political impact. We decided to create SUV and wrote a pamphlet with our demands. We illegally distributed it inside every regiment in Porto.

“Within two weeks there were SUV committees in every regiment. It was like a fire in a field.

“Soon there was no political control by any political party, including the Communist Party which had initially been against all democratic demands inside the army.

“It controlled part of the military hierarchy so didn’t like the smell of democracy in the army. But some militants in the Communist Party set up SUVs.

“The army was disintegrating. It was a pre-revolutionary situation.

“There were two national meetings. One dominated by the far left and the second by the Communist Party. It wanted people to live with the military hierarchy.

“People who belonged to the SUV were isolated and expelled from the army. This was the beginning of the decline and the end of the SUV.”

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