When Progs Attack: Fall of the Portuguese Empire edition

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” – (Dubiously) attributed to Mark Twain

“Then I might be tone deaf cuz the more history I read the more it seems like the same f tune played over and over and over again.” – Magus Janus


Little Portugual used to have an empire.  At one point it was quite large including the now 5th largest country on the planet, Brazil, which explains why it’s one of the few exceptions to an all Spanish speaking Latin America.  How it acquired said large landmass is an interesting tale involving colorful personalities and a megalomaniacal geographic ignorance. The loss of the Brazilian part of the empire came about due to a series of events beginning with one of the more bizarre happenings in modern history, when the entire Portuguese court was evacuated from Napoleon’s invading armies in 1807 leading to the colony becoming the metropolis of the Empire.

After the end of the Napoleonic wars the Portuguese threw a hissy fit combining a desire for constitutional monarchy with a return to the subordination of Brazil to the status of colony rather than equal to Portugal.  The state of affairs was further complicated by a dynastic dispute and foreign interventionism from that so dependable meddlesome power on the side of the proto-progressives (the prog good guys) against the absolutists (our good guys).  Seriously, even this douchebag was in on it, on the wrong side as usual. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.  During all this nonsense Brazil became independent and following a brief bit of remarkable stability it went down the path of progress and never had problems again.  (If you believe that I have some property with a great view in Rio to sell you.)

But that’s a story for another day.  Portugal continued limping along the 19th century as a bit player in the world’s longest continuing alliance, sort of like the waterboy to the star quarterback.  Mox is usually pretty cool helping you move out in a pinch as discussed above, but he can also be a bit of a dick sometimes.  And we get some charming terrorism of the 19th century variety, culminating in the terrorists winning (Southpark understands this of course).

But, just when things start going down the oh-so-predictable path we get that usual Iberian/Latin habit of a military man imposing order on the chaos.  Carmona joins the long list honorable men who had the will to take action when duty called, alongside the Chilean, the Brazilian, the Spaniard and others.  Where Carmona truly surprises is in his choice of the main hero of our story, Salazar, as finance minister and eventual de facto ruler of the new order in a peaceful transition managed very well by both men.  One is reminded of the Five Good Emperor’s avoidance of internecine struggles and peaceful common sense successions (that is until Dumbledore appoints a rapper as Augustus, with predictable results)


Salazar is a fascinating historical figure.  Particularly because we see that despite being on the “wrong side of history” we see many prog historians express admiration for his character and achievements; heck even a lifelong commie and enemy did as well.  My nigga ruled from 1932-1968!  For comparison’s sake in the same period the oh so stable Anglos saw 9 PMs in 10 premierships (Churchill pulling a Big Steve) and the Italians something like 20 (seriously and made all the more impressive with Il Dulce’s sucking up 11 of those years).  Political stability is important in that from it follows (usually) institutional stability, necessary for long-term economics calculation and investment.

So to the indisputable facts:
1- Salazar was never caught with his hand in the cookie jar and was never corrupt.  That’s quite something; I mean I personally don’t care if a leader of a nation enriches himself reasonably as long as he does well by the country.  Formalizing this is of course preferable as the Singaporeans do, for if a CEO is paid millions if not tens of millions then surely the “worth” of a proper ruler is in the hundreds of millions if not billions (or tens of billions for larger nations). The prog “outrage” at a political figure making money strikes me as nothing more than political posturing and hypocrisy… the US having at this point come up with the celebrity “lecture circuit” and post-office “consultant” crap to enrich politically connected figures after their term of office and sometimes during.  That said, Salazar does fit in startling genuine fashion the more traditional puritanical “public service” category having by all accounts lived in a very modest if not spartan manner and dying with little in assets to his name.

2- When he rose to power in late 1920s early 1930s Portugal had been racked by years of chronic instability and default, with little credibility abroad, a high public debt, and an impoverished people illiterate people.  Salazar managed to strictly maintain a balanced budget throughout the Great Depression and WW2 as well as maintain current account balanced if not in surplus, ultimately paying down ALL of Portuguese floating external debt.  Heck the Portuguese economy managed to grow at roughly 3% per annum throughout the 30s, which prompted that holy pulpit Time Magazine to remark:

“”it is impossible to deny that the economic improvement recorded in Portugal since 1928 is not only without parallel anywhere else in the world, but is an achievement for which history can show but few precedents””.  

Not to be outdone, Life Magazine:

“”The Dictator has built the Nation. Most that has been built in Portugal can be credited to Dr. Salazar… he has balanced the budget, built roads and schools, torn down slums, cut the death rate and enormously raised Portugal self-esteem. Unambitious Salazar took the dictatorship by army request and holds it by popular will. The Salazar dictatorship is easygoing and paternalistic, with wide freedom of speech allowed to his enemies… Friends of democracy may deplore Salazar the dictator but they cannot deny that under the republic Portugal made an unholy mess of itself and Salazar pulled it out.””
3- Economic performance really took off in the post-war period.  While the economy had been arguably overregulated in the name of political control and social stability in the first half of Salazar’s reign and thus limiting growth (plus, you know, Great Depression, tariff wars and WW2 putting a bit of a damper on trade and investment), the rising class of technocrats pushed for economic liberalization on top of the already attained sovereign credibility.  The reforms implemented throughout the late 50s and early 60s sparked the “Portuguese miracle”.  Portuguese GDP per capita as a % of Western European GDP per capita went from 35% when Salazar took office to 42% by the end of the war to 58% before the progs overthrew the regime in 1973 while managing an incredible industrial modernization and urbanization with social stability.  Those with an axe to grind attempt cliche leftwing descriptions of the Portuguese economy as still having a large poor population at that time.

This is of course true but fails to ask the more important questions: what % were poor when the regime took over and what % were still poor (on absolute basis) when it was finished? What was the trend? How did the regime compare to a benchmark of other European countries? What was the trend in gdp per capita? In social indicators like total population, infant mortality, literacy, life expectancy, etc.  Because to ask those questions would bring uncomfortable (to the prog) answers: on virtually any metric one can think of and ESPECIALLY so by usual Iberian/Latin historical standards the Estado Novo was a riveting success.

4- La Wik’s description of the regime perhaps says it better than I can:

“Opposed to communism, socialism, anarchism, liberalism and anti-colonialism,[a] the regime was corporatist, conservative, and nationalist in nature, defending Portugal as Catholic. Its policy envisaged the perpetuation of Portugal as a pluricontinental nation under the doctrine of lusotropicalism, with Angola, Mozambique, and other Portuguese territories as extensions of Portugal itself, and it being a source of civilization and stability to the overseas societies in the African and Asian possessions.”

This was my reaction on reading said beauty and that I expect of most NRx minded readers.  I’d recommend reading the link in its entirety as it is surprisingly fair for what was effectively an approximation of modern cameralism with a stable CEO.  (Beware of the usual prog sneaky attacks such as comparing an “Absolute” metric (illiteracy) with other Europeans to show Portugal’s relative backwardness when the important one is the change in said metric during the life of the regime. If you take a shtty company and turn its relative performance around you should be judged on what it was when you took over versus what it is when you left it and hypothetically against peer performance.  NOT on a “where was it absolutely” when you left it.   But I digress).

The basic gist is one of a paternalistic socially conservative regime.  It may be hard for our prog dominated world to understand that there were alternate paths to the seemingly unstoppable prog wave.  The motto in that Lusitanian Norman Rockwell’s painting is God, Country and Family, as a riposte to the slogan of the bad guys (Trigger warning: vomit inducing prog smugness of the ‘put my fist through the screen and root for Team Meteor‘ variety).  Though his regime would eventually fall to the forces of darkness when his liberalizing successor took over, Salazar held the line culturally for 4 decades.

5- He skillfully managed foreign policy through one of the most trying periods in European history.  Portugal lent tacit support to good guys over the bad guys in the Spanish Civil War, and later signed basically a neutrality pact that played a not insignificant role in keeping Spain out of the war, (something the UK in a one of their rare fits of rationality actually realized and didn’t press them on.)  Hundreds of thousands of refugees escaped the Great European Civil War via Portugal, including tens of thousands of Jooz (though that hasn’t stopped them complaining of course), all while Portugal maintained a careful balance.  Seeing the fate of those that got involved this may have been Salazar’s ultimate accomplishment.  Now, a good argument could be made that he should have joined the anti-communist front, but since the end result was communist victory and Portuguese intervention would hardly have changed it then he can hardly be blamed for prudentially guiding his country through it unscathed.

6- “All of the above are fine and whatnot, but he was a DICTATOR! MUH FREEEEEDOM!” yelps the leftist. Okay, well, let’s tackle that.  Irene Pimentel, Portuguese prog historian supreme of the PIDE years, has dug through archives, records, interviewed former operators (and those arrested/tortured), etc.  In her estimation roughly 400 prisoners were detained a year from ’45 through ’74 by the Portuguese secret police for a total of about 12000 prisoners (that’s roughly half the amount the US covered up that Stalin had had killed in ONE MONTH) detained during the post war period.  But what horrific fate awaited those “detained” for political purposes to support this evil totalitarian regime? The overwhelming majority (95%) were kept for under 2 years, and the small percentage kept longer were usually hardcore communist party members or repeat offenders.  Not exactly Ivan Denisovich territory.

Then again, who cares about those detained, the prog may counter.  Get to the nitty gritty, how many comrades did the evil fascist secret police kill during those thirty years?  First, replies the reactionary, some perspective.  Stalin, say 15 mio.  Pol Pot (later in time) 1.5 mio or thereabouts. Mao of course leads the pack at 35 mio+. Ah, but those are much larger countries or you know, really dedicated Asians. What about more culturally similar communists?  Well, the Spanish “republicans” only took down about 50k in just a few years, though they surely get points for targeting priests and nuns.  And Castro we get from 10k to 30k depending on calculations, mostly frontloaded around the Revolution, retaliations and cementing power until everyone got the message.

So enough perspective.  How many did PIDE kill in Portugal during its thirty year reign of white terror?


Stop laughing. No seriously, stop, you’re making the lefties uncomfortable.


Which at long last sets the stage for the Fall of the Portuguese Empire.  The Eye of Sauron had set its eyes on bigger game first of course: its age old enemy, which had basically brought said disaster on itself.  Salazar though was made of sterner stuff and the old man would go down fighting before surrendering an empire outposts of which existed before the settlement of the future United States.  So Sauron did what he always does:  boycott, embargo, war and Cathedral intellectual penetration.  The startling fact is that the former three mostly failed while the Portuguese had resolve (much as with South Africa).  It was only when the prog infection spread that Portugal gave up a Colonial War it had effectively won, coincidentally concurrently happening in the US.

The Portuguese (Third) Empire in the post war period consisted mostly of Portuguese Guinea, Portuguese Angola and Portuguese Mozambique.  Technically some small Indian enclaves and outposts like Goa (a Portuguese colony for almost 500 years) were also still around and kicking but their fate was quite farcical and mostly forgotten by anyone with white skin.  Seriously any international conflict with only double digit casualties is best written off as “well that was remarkably silly.”  Macau (which yours truly visited pre-handout) was also around but pretty much useless and handed over peacefully by the post ’75 leftist regime, which worked out pretty well for them all things considered.  Chinese fascism > European progs.  Someone should make a t-shirt of that.

But it’s in fair Africa where we lay our scene.  The progs declared war on the Portuguese Empire (and others) in 1960.  War broke out in Angola in ’61, Guinea in ’63 and  Mozambique in ’64.  Presumably it took time for carrier pigeons to reach different areas to tell them the prog world rulers had determined they should be set free.  Due to the clusterf- that are African independence movements we’ll break the wars up:

Angola- The Angolan Communist Party (PCA) merged with the Party of the United Struggle of Africans in Angola (PLUA), and then with the Movement for the National Independence of Angola (MINA) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Angola (FDLA).   Presumably initially called the PCAPLUAMINAFDLA, they settled on MPLA, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola.  Among the founders were:
1- Viriato Cruz, a poet Maoist who was exiled after infighting to China where he was apparently starved to death (seriously)
2- Mario Pinto Andrade, a poet who studied Philosophy at Lisbon and Sociology at Sorbonne (color me shocked) and after infighting was exiled from Angola and died in London
3- Agostinho Neto, a poet (wtf is it with poets!?) the infighting winner who therefore has his birthday as a public holiday, National Heroes Day.  A Marxist Leninist, he was the first president of super happy free Angola, had an unclaimed bastard child in Bulgaria he never recognized, was buddies with Che, had Cuban funding and support (though not direct USG aid, the US backing FNLA instead, though Cathedral soft support of the headline variety is arguably more valuable), Lenin Peace Prize winner in 1977, and killed about 10-18k members of the Fractionist movement after an attempted coup against him in ’77.  Oh and his poems are national anthems, obviously.  Cathedral connection extraordinaire: late Brown University professor and “father of modern african literature” Chinua Achebe wrote a laudatory poem about him.  Seriously.

The war began in earnest in ’61 with a worldwide drop in cotton and coffee prices.  The Portuguese cut back wages (free markets and all that) and the Angolans (becoming accustomed to booming population and rising gdp per capita courtesy of Western institutions and governance) proceed to rationally air their grievances.  lol.  They commence a campaign of widespread violence against Portuguese settlers, industrialists, traders and farmers including a particularly nasty episode when the Union of the People’s of Northern Angola (UPA) led by Holden Roberto (on the USNSC payroll since mid 50s.  Seriously) killed 1000 white civilians and 6000 black civilians including women and children subjected to mass rape.  Most of the blacks killed were Ovimbundu, whereas Holden’s militia members were Bakongo, and though to Western eyes they all pretty much look the same (black) they REALLY f hate each other with ideological differences serving more as an excuse to settle very old grudges and get your dick wet.  Roberto would mostly operate out of the Kongo region and Zaire during the war (and ensuing post independence civil war) and basically fight the Portuguese and more importantly his internal black rivals.  Oh, and guess who educated this mass murdering rapist “freedom fighter”?  Well, here’s the money quote from Stanford’s Fearon and Laitin (2005):

“the Portuguese reluctantly allowed
Protestant missionaries to work in the colonies. The three leading insurgents
in Angola were all educated by these Protestant missionaries: Roberto
(Baptists), Neto (Methodists), and Savimbi (Congregationalists). Van der
Waals suggests that the ideology of liberation was fostered not only by
communists and Afro-Asian nationalists, but by Protestant missionaries as
well (van der Waals 1993, pp. 30, 43). ”

You can’t make this sht up my NRx brethren.  Van der Waals btw was a South African brigadier General who wrote a not too shabby book on the war, though colored with some progressive sentiment.

The borders with neighboring Zaire and later Zambia provided safe havens for the rebels, and UN protection of international boundaries and squeals of outrage at transgressions by the Portuguese (though never by the insurgents) effectively gave the insurgents a free home base.  Rather similar to Red USG issues when fighting N Vietnam facing issues with “neutral” Laos and Cambodia (and when fighting N Korea and dealing with explicit Chinese intervention for that matter), though curiously enough not an issue when fighting the Germans in WW2.  Imagine the USG fighting the Germans in France and Italy and Africa but never bombing or invading Germany itself and you’re imagining a very different world, something Francis Parker Yockey would point out in exasperated fashion. But I digress.

War between the Portuguese and the UN backed forces and between different factions of those forces (presaging the two decade long civil war that would ravage the country) continued.  Roberto, after turning UPA into FNLA, would actually get funding from the joooooooooz against Portugal, and a splinter group from FNLA would found UNITA (these acronyms I swear), spreading the war to Southeast Angola.  The Portuguese response to the UPA massacres was devastating, and led by the likes of Fernando Robles and his “special hunter units” (seriously) enacting some Lex Talionis UPA/FNLA were expelled from the Bakongo region of Angola and sought refuge in Kinshasa and the Congo.

The Portuguese meanwhile pursued a policy of increasing Africanization, not too dissimilar from Nixon’s  plan to end Vietnam War.  The % of Africans serving the Portuguese colonial army in the war rose sharply from 20% to close to 50% by the 1970s, and Portuguese casualties in Angola were minimal:  less than 3k over the 14 years.  Specialized all-black native “Flechas” units (arrow) wrought havoc on the MPLA in the Eastern Front via local knowledge (and incidentally were the inspiration for the infamous Selous Scouts of Rhodesia) and ruthlessness augmented by foreign black “leais” (Zambian refugees) and “fieis” (Zairean) loyal to Portuguese forces, and South African raids in Moxico ravaged many guerrilla training bases (The Lusitanians would affectionately refer to the Boer as “primos”, the “cousins”).  By 1974, on the eve of the Carnation Revolution the war had been all but won with the vast majority of Angola pacified, the opposition heavily splintered and beset by infighting (Revolta Activa a new group led by poet Mario Andrade left MPLA in 1974 and fought for foreign commie funding in the Chinese and Soviet courts), and the remaining MPLA mostly reduced to escaping with Neto to the Republic of Congo.

It was by all accounts the most successful of the three counter-insurgent campaigns by the Portuguese.  In fact by the 1970s the colony was booming with heavy building of roads, schools, trade with Portugal flourishing and increased investment (particularly oil-driven in the Kabinda enclave) among the increased security outlook.  Angola’s future seemed very bright indeed.

Mozambique- The Mozambiquean war is a little easier to understand if only due to lacking a veritable salad soup of infighting acronyms.  The Marxist-Leninist Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO) were the main insurgent movement, and commenced the war in earnest in 1964.  FRELIMO Dramatis Personae included:
1- Eduardo Mondlane, attended Oberlin college of Lena Dunham fake-rape fame, degrees in sociology and anthropology (shocking!), worked as a researcher in the UN (double shock!), married a white chick from Indiana, taught at Syracuse Univesity and set up their East African studies department (electrifying!), and with funding from Scandinavian countries (damnit Sweden, wtf) China, Soviet Union and Julius “wreck my country” Nyerere set up and was elected first president of FRELIMO. Died in a book bombing.
2- Uria Simango, poet (damnit not again), vice president and cofounder, lost power struggle to Machel and was exiled, returned after happy happy glorious independence to start a party to contest the election (lol) only to be arrested, tortured and executed in late 70s.
3- Samora Machel, cofounder, no education past lower school at a Mission, won the power struggle for supreme power, wrecked country with one-party state and ensuing civil war, died in plane crash under dubious circumstances.

FRELIMO gradually escalated activities throughout late 60s, particularly among the more sparsely populated Cabo Delgado region bordering Tanzania, where it used the old guerrilla “border hopping” hit-and-run technique.  FRELIMO would pressure tribal leaders, the majority of which were content with Portuguese rule, to join the insurgency “or else”, a fate over 2k would face. Soon over 1/7th of the population in 1/5th of area of Mozambique were under Frelimo control with the insurgents numbering about 8k fighters.  The southern regions meanwhile remained under Portuguese control and over half of Portuguese troops were located in concentric defensive rings and bases in the Western Tete district protecting the Cahora Bassa dam. The dam, constructed from 1969-1974 was (and still is) the largest hydroelectric system in Southern Africa, so of course the nationalist insurgents repeatedly attempted to attack construction workers and blow it up… for the good of the country and all that.  Oh, and of course the UN condemned the building of the damn in UN resolution 2873 in 1971.  Apparently opening up 8 million acres of land to agriculture and providing 4 millions kilowatts of electrical power to Southern Africa are absolutely evil if done by the wrong white people.

Things came to a head in the awesomely named Gordian Knot operation of 1970 (back when military operations still had real names and not PC bs) by the equally awesome named Kaulza de Arriaga all but wiped out FRELIMO’s ability to operate.  Kaulza was a fascinating hard-right figure; a mathematics and engineering major from Porto University (Portugal’s best) he traveled to the US to consult with Westmoreland and US experts on counterinsurgency warfare and was a member of the Portuguese Institute of Higher Military Studies, which sounds, well, awesome.  His elite paratroopers outfit were crucial in preventing a palace coup against Salazar in 1961 by Botelho Moniz sponsored by the US (in part due to Salazar’s intransigence vis a vis JFK in relinquishing the colonies to “independence” aka the State/Blue Empire).  Kaulza definitely represented the right-wing faction of the Salazar regime.  Upon arrival in the theatre in 1970 he backed the use of helicopter gunships to support ground operations in search-and-destroy missions as well as asking for increased funding and troops for Gordian Knot.

The main purpose of the operation was to, as its name implies, sever FRELIMO’s frustrating ability to use international niceties and double standards to attack the Portuguese while being supplied from Tanzania and having a ready escape route.  La Wik’s description is fairly spot on:

The objectives of the campaign were to seal off the infiltration routes across the Tanzanian border and to destroy permanent guerrilla bases. “Gordian Knot” was a seven-month campaign employing ultimately thirty-five thousand men, and was almost successful. The brunt of the effort was in the Cabo Delgado district, in the northernmost area of Mozambique, on the border with guerrilla sympathizer Tanzania. Tactics consisted of lightning quick airborne assaults on small camps. Continual artillery and aviation bombardment rained down on larger sites while bulldozer guided, motorized armies converged. These tactics were effective and Arriaga pursued the guerrillas relentlessly; however, the exertions of “Gordian Knot” could not be continued indefinitely.

The Portuguese had excellent coordination between light bombers, helicopters and reinforced ground patrols. They utilised American tactics of quick airborne (helibourne) assaults supported by heavy aerial bombardments of FRELIMO camps by the Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa or FAP) to surround and eliminate the guerrillas. These bombardments were accompanied by the use of heavy artillery. The Portuguese also used cavalry units to cover the flanks of patrols and where the terrain was too difficult to motor transport, and units of captured or deserted guerrillas to penetrate their former bases.”

The operation was by any military estimate a success, killing over eliminating close to 3k FRELIMO fighters at the cost of 130 Portuguese troops.  In said document Kaulza in his own words lays out the objectives and accomplishments of the campaign and subsequent operations in the region:

Counter-Insurgency in Mozambique
According to the doctrine I established as Professor at the Portuguese Institute of Higher Military Studies, counter insurgency in Mozambique has the following objectives:
a- Elimination of “liberated areas”, as was the case in Operation Gordian Knot adn those immediately previous and subsequent to it
b- Security and defense of important and sensitive areas such as Cabora-Bassa
c- Development of territory and promotion of security for the population, especially in the fields of education, healthcare (…)
d- Combat those who aimed to increase the insurgency and stop the development of the territory and the security of the population
What followed
A- Operation Gordian Knot was executed with the total elimination of FRELIMO bases and “liberated areas”
B- Cabora Bassa was defended with 100% success
C- Construction of over one thousand villages with schools, health centers, farms and civic centers etc.
D- Initiated Operation Frontier, the construction of modern villages along the Rovuma river on the frontier with Tanzania
E- Strongly increased access to schooling and university for Africans
F- Development of efficient system of General Sanitation Assistance
G- Nomination of several Presidents of the African Chamber
H- Establishment of a Provincial Legislative Assembly in Lourenco Marques composed of 50% whites and 50% blacks
I- Improvement and construction of thousands of kilometers of roads, hundreds of landing strips and small airports and several ports
J- Augmented system of Population Self-Defense in which weapons were supplied to native forces that would rid themselves of subversive groups
K- Establishment of Special Paratrooper Group (special forces) constituted of African volunteers from diverse ethnicities and tribes, highly trained in combat and amenable to the population
CONCLUSION: The attempted subversion by the USSR and China and their groups, particularly FRELIMO, was a failure. FRELIMO faced an imminent total collapse after Operation Gordian Knot and was equally situated when the 25th of April (Carnation Revolution) movment occurred.  The Counter-Insurgency operations realized by Portugal based on mixed white and black populations was a total success.

Frelimo, facing a total inability to effect a victory by purely military means, turned to explicitly terroristic actions, as per Henrikssen 1983:
 “The mine is a weapon of the semi-skilled and as such fitted into Frelimo’s reliance on village youth to conduct its campaign. Its effectiveness was great, however. Two out of every three troops, or 70 percent, struck down by the guerrillas were mine victims.”
By 1973 the UN supported FRELIMO was laying mines in civilians areas with casualties in the thousands, the purpose being to strike terror into the hearts of neutral civilians and to turn the domestic political tide against the Portuguese, though this proved far more unsuccessful domestically than it would internationally.

Just as the victory in Vietnam would be betrayed by political events driven by the media, in 1973 the Cathedral octopus struck hard against the Portuguese military efforts in Mozambique.  Some soldiers, mostly black, in the Portuguese army on a routine search mission in a FRELIMO infiltrated village in Dec 1972 killed around 150-300 civilians in what appeared to be a classic case of war frustration retaliation to an ambush they’d suffered that had killed 6 of their own.  The “Wiriyamu Massacre”(dwarfed by equivalent actions by FRELIMO throughout its existence) was divulged by a Cambridge (check) educated anti-colonial (check) Vatican II supporting (triple check) anti celibacy (and in fact later married) enthusiast priest Adrian Hastings.  Hastings relayed the information to uber-prog Louis Heren, at The Times, and later would speak at the UN on it.  The revelation, coming within a few years of My Lai,  was timed perfectly one week before Caetano (Salazar’s succesor) visited England in commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance.  It shocked the “respectable international community” and corroded Portuguese educated opinion on the war.  Heren incidentally is a BINGO if I ever saw one of prog checklist:  anti-Thatcher, supportive of commie spy Anthony Blunt, accompanied MLK on his ‘freedom’ rides, friends with LBJ, etc.

The Cathedral’s propaganda victory in Mozambique would overwhelm the military victory accomplished by the Portuguese forces in the face of a ruthless terrorist campaign at the cost of 3.5k Portuguese soldiers, and was a large contributor to the Carnation Revolution that would lead to the destruction of the Empire.   UK Labor leader and later PM Harold Wilson for instance called the Portuguese regime guilty of “genocide” and “with no parallel since Nazi times” (conveniently forgetting the largest massacre in history, the 30-40 mio casualties Mao had just committed in 1959-1961) due to the revelation of a couple hundred civilians killed.  Kaulza’s one mistake was not realizing that the real war was not against FRELIMO but a much more powerful enemy, the international prog community.

But first, to the last and most troubled of the colonial conflicts:

Guinea- The Marxist African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) initiated the rebellion in 1963. Among key figures were:
1- Amilcar Cabral, while studying at the University of Lisbon founded student movements opposing the Salazar dictatorship and urging the end of the Empire, founder of PAIGC and helped Neto found MPLA for double points, set up a Sweden supplied/funded roving hospital for wounded rebel PAIGC troops, assassinated by internal rival Inocencio Kani with PIDE help, darling of Western intellectuals for boilerplate Marxist nonsense i.e. “incredible intellectual”
2- Luis Cabral, the above’s brother and successor and first president of independent Guinea, ran country into the ground as single-party state and overthrown in military coup in ’80, known for ordering execution of roughly 7.5k Guinean black troops that had fought for Portuguese after victory in ’75 and buried in mass graves (it is unknown if Harold Wilson commented on this)
3- Joao “Nino” Vieira, member of Papal minority ethnicity (as opposed to Balanta majority in Guinea),  rising military leader during independence, overthrew Cabral in ’80 coup representing “black” interests against the mulatto Cape Verdean led regime of Cabral, became de-facto president for life of Guinea-Bissau until his death in 2009 with a brief 4 year interlude following losing civil war in ’99, hacked to death (seriously) by rivals in 2008.

The costal areas of Guinea had been run by Portugal as trading outposts since the 1450s making it one of Portugal’s oldest colonies.  The interior jungle-ridden tribal areas were only brought under Portuguese de facto control in the 19th century and it was in those areas that the PAIGC focused their efforts, both due to difficulty Portuguese army had in chasing them as well as PAIGC’s ability to use the borders with Guinea-Conakry and Senegal for safe haven, bases and supplies.  Guinea-Conakry was led by Ahmed Toure, first president aka dictator for life and killer of roughly 50k in concentration camps throughout his 26 year regime.  Fun Fact: Toure was friends with Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichae and considered JFK his ally and “only true friend in the outside world”.  Ghana also provided training camps and equipment particularly during the early years of the movement, as it was run by anti-colonial leader and Fidel and MLK buddy Kwame Nkrumah.  Kwame, a philosophy major from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and Philosophy major from University of Pennsylvania, was the first president aka dictator of Ghana, a post he’d hold until being overthrown in a (shock!) coup in the late 60s after running his country into the ground as yet another failed Marxist experiement.

The foreign funding, jungle territory and easy access to international border safe havens and resupply depots turned Portugues Guinea into what was dubbed somewhat hyperbolically as the “Portuguese Vietnam”. Whereas in Angola and Mozambique the majority of the territory was always in Portuguese hands even during the nadir of the counter-insurgent efforts, in Guinea large swathes of the country were rebel controlled or disputed/threatened.  While the capital and key ports remained in Portuguese hands the rebels ability to operate increased steadily throughout the 60s.

Coinciding with the renewed vigor in the Mozambiquean campaign, 1970 saw the Portuguese launch Operation Mar Verde (Green Sea), which was basically a “f this international borders hypocrisy bs” moment.  200 black guinean soldiers led by Portuguese white officers launched an amphibious covert operation of Israeli-like ballz to destroy PAIGC supply ships and depots, release POWs from torture/starvation/execution from infamous Camp Boiro (and later political prison/mass execution site), and burn down Toure’s summer house cuz, well, f him. The mission was a success in a military sense with one Portuguese white loss and 7 Guinean blacks versus hundreds of rebel scum casualties. Unfortunately the attempted overthrow of Toure failed as he managed to hide (as did Cabral), and exacted domestic revenge in paranoid fashion in an internal purge of roughly 100 high-ranking casualties.

The real cost though came, as in the Angolan and Mozambiquean campaigns, in the international realm.  The real evil behind the conflict passed several resolutions condemning both the invasion and the existence of the Portuguese empire as a “threat to African security” (cue NRx lol) and the Russian branch of global communism dispatched several warships to the region to explicitly protect the PAIGC and prevent a repeat of Portugal actually trying to win the war.  The Soviets increased funding to PAIGC, equipping them with shoulder-fired Strela’s, not too dissimilar as more primitive version of later Stingers of Charlie Wilson fame, limiting Portugal’s ability to use combined arms and air support in counter-insurgent activity.

Unlike the Portuguese de facto military victories in Angola and Mozambique, a decisive military victory in Guinea proved elusive. At the same time PAIGC never presented a tangible military threat to removing Portugal from the region while Portuguese will remained to keep it.  Portuguese casualties  over the 9 year conflict were 2k KIA, about 200 per year, mostly in the late 60s and declining thereafter. Africanization of the Portuguese armed forces in the colonial conflict had proved a success as a large % of native blacks did not want to be ruled by marxist and terroristic guerrilla forces of PAIGC, preferring (rather rationally one must comment) to stick to Portuguese governance.  Of special note were General Spinola’s establishment of all-black counter-insurgent special forces Comandos (led by black Marcelino Matas, one of the most decorated soldiers in Portuguese military history) and Fuzileiros as well as the ruthless Milicianos, who would operate throughout Guinean rivers in amphibious small-troop operations destroying rebel strongholds and supply depots.  The war continued as such in stalemated fashion through to the ’74 Carnation Revolution.

STATE OF AFFAIRS- The state of affairs in 1974 in the colonial war was as follows: total victory in Angola, large though not total victory in Mozambique with guerrilla forces only able to strike sporadically in sparsely populated rural areas, and stalemate in Guinea.  Angola and Mozambique were undergoing an economic boom, with large construction projects, Portuguese investment, constant flow of white settlers to the region and increased commodity exports.  GDP per capita and population were both increasing both for white minority as well as black majority under Portuguese governance. In Guinea the conflict had caused havoc in PAIGC-run areas but the coastal and more populous (and economically important) Portuguese run areas experienced declining infant mortality and increased commodity exports (particularly cashews and peanuts), with total population growing by 20% from ’65 to ’75.

The Portuguese metropole itself was experiencing an economic boom throughout the colonial conflict period.  The liberalizing reforms of late 50s/early 60s had led to dramatic growth, and though the war took up roughly 40% of the government budget Portuguese per capita growth continued steadily, making it easily affordable and sustainable.  Portuguese casualties had dropped remarkably with the success of Africanization in the 70s and the stabilization of the conflict on two fronts (in particular the more contested and larger Mozambiquean front with completion of the Bassa Dam).  Furthermore, the discovery and exploration of large Angolan oil deposits promised a bountiful source of medium and long-term wealth and thus strategic independence.  The Portuguese Empire from a strictly factual standpoint seemed alive, well and prosperous with a bright future for both its white and black inhabitants, in the face of Soviet, US and UN opposition.

Politically though the situation had changed dramatically.  79 year old Salazar had suffered a stroke in ’68 after 36 years of rule, and President Americo Tomas appointed Marcelo Caetano to the role of PM.  Caetano’s power though was not as absolute as Salazar’s had been, with the government being effectively split between the “right” Tomas and the “left” of Caetano.  Caetano was known as a reformist, having been Law professor of Lisbon University and Rector of the school.  When Salazar cracked down on communist student groups the students went on strike during the so-called “Academic Crisis” of ’61/’62 and marches and riots were put down by riot police, prompting the moderate Caetano to resign as Rector in protest.  His rise to power thus prompted much skepticism from the ranks of the military and in particular the more conservative members such as Kaulza, who became a constant source of worries regarding a possible reactionary coup.

Caetano intended to politically liberalize the (incredibly successful and long-lasting) regime.  Among the list of changes he pursued as part of the so-called “Marcelist Spring”:
– Changing the name of the regime from Estado Novo (New State) to the more feel-good Estado Social (Social State)
– Changing the name of the PIDE to DGS (General-Directorate of Security)
– Increased welfare expenditures such as rural pensions to non-contributors, taxing the budget and driving increasing inflation via higher monetary printing to fund it
Allowing first labor (read, communist infiltrated) unions in 40 years
Easing press censorship

And so on.  One unintended beneficial side effect of Caetano’s foray into prog appeasement was a concomitant hardening of the colonial war to appease the right-wing generals angered by his domestic “reforms”.  Kaulza, Spinola and others were given higher funding and freer rein in the conflicts, allowing them to turn the tide in Angola and Mozambique and stabilize Guinea as shown above.  The domestic reforms though proved a disaster, predictably failing to quench the prog thirst for power.  Louis XVI, the UK with the US, Czar Nicholas II, nominally right-wing rulers repeatedly commit the same mistake of attempting to negotiate a “moderate reform” with ruthless Left opposition, only to find themselves overthrown and exiled if lucky, beheaded/shot if not.

What Caetano had done was the equivalent of liberally (heh) spreading gasoline throughout a house. And a house in a neighborhood on fire: worldwide student protests in ’68 mirroring 1848 with France rattled by a Leftist quasi-revolution and De Gaulle briefly fleeing the country; the US undergoing radical student anti-war protests, civil “rights” riots and the Watergate scandal growing in importance in 73-74; explosion of Irish “Troubles” from 70-73, etc. Against this backdrop Caetano would allow the genie of progressivism out of the bottle with greater student freedoms and press freedoms.  The groundwork was set for revolutionary change not due to material conditions but due to  political misgovernance (naivete?) by Caetano, the only question remaining was where the spark would come from to ignite the fire of revolution.

REVOLUTION- The Carnation Revolution is best understood as an in-house palace Left Wing coup against the right-wing Estado Novo regime and Portuguese Empire.  The culprit was the (communist infiltrated) Movement of the Armed Forces (MFA), composed of Left-wing army officers and whose principal agenda included:
– immediate end to the Colonial War i.e. surrender of Portuguese Africa to communist guerrilla forces
– free elections aka socialism
– abolition of secret police PIDE/DGS and their ruthless reign of terror (ELEVEN!)
– a minority in favor of establishment of communist regime in Porgual

The official motto was “Democratization, Decolonization and Development.”  The first two were to be achieved, the latter, well, not so much.

The immediate cause of the revolution was the passage by the Caetano administration of a misguided new military reform law that, in an attempt to lower the costs of military and the prosecution of the war would allow militia forces who completed a brief training program to be commissioned at the same rank as military academy graduates.  That’s what not listening to Severus gets you.  The younger academy graduates were incensed at the dilution of the prestige of their commissions and the political intervention in the running of the military.  In ’74 the coup took place establishing a “National Salvation Junta”during the tumultuous “Revolutionary Course in Process” (PREC) time of ’74-’76 which brought the country to the brink of civil war before the first democratic elections of ’76, won by a “moderate” (not stalinistic communist) left wing general.

The chief plotters:
1- Otelo Carvalho, named after Shakespeare’s Othello with equally disastrous decision-making skills, communist supporter and main strategist of the coup, stopped a counter-revolutionary coup in’75 only to attempt his own radical left failed coup in November ’75 that was in turn ousted by a moderate left counter radical left coup (seriously), ended up leading FP25 terrorist faction in the 80s that bombed police stations and robbed banks Patti Hearst style, ended up as an arms dealer to African nations.  Oh, and in 2011 he stated “If I’d known how the country would turn out I’d never have made the revolution”.
2-Vasco Goncalves, named after heroic Portuguese explorer and empire builder Vasco da Gama and would play key role in bringing down said empire, prime minister during the PREC years his goverment, as La Wik puts it,
“nationalized all Portuguese-owned capital in the banking, insurance, petrochemical, fertilizer, tobacco, cement, and wood pulp sectors of the economy, as well as the Portuguese iron and steel company, major breweries, large shipping lines, most public transport, two of the three principal shipyards, core companies of the Companhia União Fabril (CUF) conglomerate, radio and TV networks (except that of the Roman Catholic Church), and important companies in the glass, mining, fishing, and agricultural sectors. “
He also nationalized vast swathes of the country’s agriculture (2.2 mio acres) with predictable results: collapse in efficiency, failure to modernize, etc.
3-General Antonio Spinola, centrist and elder statesman figure, played a minor role in the Revolution as such but became a key player following Caetano’s insistence that he would only surrender to Spinola made him the public face of the Revolution and first post-coup president of the Junta,  gradually saw the light and attempted to block the MFA’s radical left economic and political program, resigned in late ’74, attempted a counter-coup in ’75 appealing to the “silent majority” (hollah Nixon) but alas failed and was exiled to Spain and Brazil though rehabilitated in his later life due to role he played in the Revolution initially

So that’s the basics.  From still (though not as much) right-wing authoritarian government in early ’74 to moderate junta from April to September, then firm left-wing program until a radical-left communist failed coup in November ’75 followed briefly by a moderate democratic left coup allowing for elections in ’76.  The economy of course tanked, the obvious result of the instability and economically insane program implemented with exploding fiscal and current account deficits.  It would take Portugal until the early ’90s to recover its equivalent % of per capita GDP ranking to rest of Europe, as well as leaving a strong legacy of government control of the economy and indebtedness  that haunts it to this day.

The decolonization program was a disaster.  The colonies were turned over to Marxist terrorists who attempted to outdo one another in terms of economic irrationality, kleptocratic plundering of their nations,  and devastatingly destructive civil wars. Over 1 Mio Portuguese fleed the former colonies in the years following the Carnation Revolution, the so-called “Retornados”

The fate of the colonies briefly:

1- Angola: estimated casualties during 13 year war against Portugal was in the 30-50k range (with 3k Portuguese), the war effectively over by ’74.  Following Portuguese evacuation it erupted in a 26 YEAR (!) clusterfuck of a civil war between UNITA/FNLA and MPLA and virtually every foreign power imaginable (Cuba, South Africa, Soviet Union, China, US, UN) with an estimated over 500k (!) civilian casualties, the displacement of over 1/3 of the population (4.5 MIO people) and the conflict spilling over into the Congo Civil War involving child soldiers, blood diamonds, mass spread of aids and all manner of horror.  Billions spent in aid by the Western powers and the UN in those decades did not stop the nation in 2003 from having 80% of Angolans lacking basic medical care, 30% of children dying before the age of 5 and a national life expectancy lower than 40 (est 2003 gdp per capita, 800 USD, since then catching up a bit with oil and commodity boom to 5k per capita).  Of course this was all worth it for a glorious democracy in which the President  has been in power since 1979.

2- Mozambique: estimated 50k casualties during independence war (which remember had effectively ended by ’74), erupted in a 15 year civil war following Portuguese evacuation between different factions.  Casualties?  1 MILLION including a mass famine, displacement of five million civilians, total destruction of the nation’s economy and infrastructure and mass use of landmines causing problems to this day.  Large scale nationalizations, expropriations, government planning, debt and inflation further wrecked the economy with GDP per capita hit a low of about 100 USD (per year!) in the mid 90s and though to be fair it has since had a glorious recovery to 600 USD in 2013.  Progress!

3- Guinea: roughly 5k civilian casualties in the independence war (3k Portuguese).  As discussed following Portuguese evacuation the Guinean president/dictator Cabral exacted retribution on over 7k soldiers who had fought for the enemy and buried them in mass graves.  His successor via coup Vieira (and self dubbed “God’s gift to Guinea”, seriously) would be briefly ousted in a civil war in the late 90s with 500k displaced and 1k casualties, which by African standards is pretty damn good.  The economy of course is a total disaster, GDP per capita currently USD 500 (fun fact, it takes 233 days to start a new business in Guinea, second most in the world! come invest!) and basically started using a French backed-currency to stabilize its economy.  70% of the population lives in extreme poverty, but on the bright side they have very low carbon emissions.  You’re welcome Gaia!

4- East Timor: my bad. We totally skipped little Timor in our above analysis, in truth because well, nothing really happened.  Unlike Indian exclaves they were not invaded during Portuguese rule nor was there a fun commie/UN backed insurgency worthy of mention (no Fretilin doesn’t really count).  If anything the Timorese were happy to have their Portuguese overlords back following Japanese occupation during WW2 that killed over 50k of them. Portugal had ruled the Eastern half of the island for 300 years, and with the exception of a revolt in early 20th century that cost 3k lives well, Timorese history is one of colonial boredom.  Following Portugal’s withdrawal though a brief civil war broke out to spice things up, and the Indonesians invaded 9 days after their declaration of independence.  The death toll was roughly 150k out of 800k, not quite Crimson Cambodian levels but a worthy effort nonetheless. Following acquisition of “Western darling” status the Indonesian withdrew in 1999 and the UN ran it as a colony until granting it “independence” in 2002.  I for one hope after all that excitement and international attention they can get some boredom back, but let’s not hold our breath.

CONCLUSION- Which brings us to the end of this overly long and sad tale.  The main historical lesson to draw from this as a NRx is to never give in to the Left on principle.  As a strategic withdrawal yes there may be times where that is necessary (or geopolitical reality dictating that Goa was untenable), but never, NEVER out of a conviction that “progress” is inevitable or resistance futile. The fall of the Estado Novo regime, largely self-caused though certainly with a prog push, led to millions of casualties in Africa in a totally predictable manner, economic crisis in Portugal, and the end of Portuguese as a unique or sovereign state as it converted into yet another prog suzerainty “social democracy” (and narrowly avoided a worse fate).  The Carnation Revolution also had a direct impact on events in their Iberian neighbors the following year.

Whether Portugal could have continued holding onto its empire in the face of what would be increasing prog resistance is debatable, especially following the end of the Cold War, though certainly possible and especially so if Rhodesia and South Africa survived.  The real problem in my eyes would be how to handle an African demographic explosion, something the progs seem unable to have an answer for.  But that is a topic for another day.


11 thoughts on “When Progs Attack: Fall of the Portuguese Empire edition

  1. Pingback: Late Adders | The Reactivity Place

  2. Interesting. Thanks for all those links. Studied the Portuguese African counter-insurgencies in grad school and corresponded with some of the participants, including ex-members of PIDE and Flechas. Despite the difficulties presented by a relatively poor economy, geographic distance, logistics, and COIN training, plucky little Portugal under Salazar nevertheless pressed on in carrying out these campaigns in the face of shifting political winds. It was a pretty remarkable performance considering the challenges, and Salazar should be given much credit.


  3. Look into the so-called September (1974) Revolt in Lourenço Marques in Mozambique, a brief rebellion by White settlers against the newly-installed black nationalist government.

    What’s amusing about all of this is that in recent years Portuguese immigrants have been streaming back into Mozambique for jobs and business opportunities, effectively re-colonising the country.


  4. Have you checked the Kissinger Cables at wiki leaks? They could touch on this subject.

    One path for further inquiry: anti and post colonial literature scholars and classes in American schools. At first glance one might dismiss it as cultural Marxism. On second glance, it looks like academia adapting itself to USG anti colonial goals.


  5. The (Portuguese) Empire Strikes Back !

    Portugal’s unemployed heading to Mozambique ‘paradise’

    In 1975, just after Mozambique had won its independence from Portugal after a bitter struggle, a quarter of a million Portuguese settlers fled the country. Fearful for their lives, but also without prospect of a livelihood, the mother country was a safer bet.

    Now, nearly 40 years later, the flow is reversing.

    With Portugal staggering economically, many now see the country’s former colony as holding out more prospects than home.



  6. Is it too early to call this the best NRx article of 2015? You’ve certainly put your hometown on the map with this. Yes, there is a Portugese Empire in the 20th century.

    I’m not sure how anyone else could top this, everyone already knows about the 20th century history of all the other empires, right?


  7. I knew very little about any of this, and now I know much more. Typical leftist nonsense and downright harebrained BS. One thing I did know about was Angola’s colonial stability and post-colonial mess because I debated it in prog-politician-in-training “Model UN” back in school. I was the only one non-PC enough to point out that Angola did better under colonial rule. Shun the non-believer!!!


  8. Pingback: The Word From the Dark Side – October 17th, 2015 | sovietmen

  9. And it all started when JFK armed and supported the upa rebels to try and ‘scare’ the Portuguese into fleeing oil rich Angola like the Belgians did in Zaire. What else to attract the attention of the mighty soviet menace?


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