Socialist Worker

Working class people shook themselves free from repression

Issue No. 1957

Three members of the secret police surrender to demonstrators

Three members of the secret police surrender to demonstrators

The industrial district of Setubal was one of the most militant parts of Portugal during the revolution.

Jaime Pinho, a local teacher and historian, told Socialist Worker, “Setubal is near to Lisbon and was the most industrialised district in Portugal.

“This happened mainly in the 1950s and 1960s when car plants and other heavy industry were placed here. Even during the dictatorship the underground Communist Party organised demonstrations and resistance here.

“A generation of young workers arrived here in great numbers. The revolution arrived at the height of industrialisation in Setubal. But there was also a crisis in the global economy. Many factories closed.

“The big factories were occupied by the workers and placed under workers’ control.

“The young workers didn’t accept the leadership of the Communist Party. They wanted something more radical, and the far left achieved great successes here.

“There were lots of slums in Setubal. The people of the slums occupied empty houses. Young architects from the university came to work here to help build homes in discussion with the people.

“Soldiers no longer accepted the army’s rules. They wore their hair and their clothes as they wanted. Committees of soldiers ruled their regiments.

“When there was a conflict people asked the soldiers to rule on it. If parents occupied a building to create a nursery, the soldiers would come to help.

“When the main right wing party tried to hold a meeting In Setubal the left and the Communist Party tried to stop it.

“There was a big confrontation with the police. The police killed a young left winger. There was a big fight and the police were expelled from the city.”

Aliçe Brito, a lawyer in Setubal, said, “When the revolution started I came to Setubal, where I worked in the revolution. It was very beautiful.

“Setubal was known as the Red City. It was like a soviet (revolutionary workers’ council) in those days. There was a very hard working class here.

“This was the same across the whole Setubal district. The revolution was very important to the daily life of people. Fascism was a terrible thing that repressed people’s ideas.

“The revolution did a lot to open people’s minds, including women.

“The revolution was about trying to liberate everyone. It changed sexual habits. Before people had to marry, but after people began to live together without being married. This is an example of how new ideas were opened up.”

Alvaro Arranja, a teacher in Setubal, said, “I was 15 when the revolution began. Students occupied their schools and put teachers who had a connection with the old regime out of school.

“Student committees ran things, changing the curriculum. All of the different committees — students, workers and tenants — worked together.”

“Even after the end of the revolution there was still a fighting tradition in Setubal,” said Jaime Pinho. “The left continued to win elections, but slowly the occupied schools and factories were taken back by the authorities.”

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