Revolutions usually start out thanks to/because of a little group of persons who, supported by the rest of the population, change the regime in place.
(Note about this to my contemporaries :
they rarely start out thanks to a petition !)
The Carnation Revolution started in this manner, but it can claim this particularity of having only four dead people on its toll at the end of it.
“Towards freedom. Long live the 25th of April !” graffiti
© Henrique Matos / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0
In 1974, Portugal kowtowed to the totalitarian regime of Marcelo Caetano, regime that had joyfully succeeded to the one just as totalitarian of António Salazar from 1928 to 1968. Moreover, back then Portuguese men had to endure four years of military service and they were often sent to contain the revolts of the Portuguese colonies in Angola, Guinea and Mozambique. The era was thus not funny for anybody, to say the least.
A very nice and good day though, a song played on the radio and, as if by magic (since it was a signal), some soldiers entered into action and did what we ordinarily call a coup d’etat.
La chanson Grândola, Vila Morena de José Afonso1
It was on the 25th of April in 1974 and those soldiers succeeded in not only taking the power but also in then giving it back to the Portuguese people in the form of democracy.
A movie untitled “April Captains” retraces those events. The plot goes as follows. A few young army captains proclaim themselves to be the Armed Forces Movement, seize the communication means (that is, mainly the radio), put in detention a good number of high-ranking officers, ask the Prime Minister to surrender, etc.
The outcome was not at all certain from the beginning. In the army, all were not on the side of the rebels. The insurged captains furthermore encountered the major hurdle of not being high-ranked enough so as to be taken seriously by the government and obtain to enter into discussions with it …
Hopefully, the General António de Spínola2 entered in contact with the movement and he himself then obtained the resignation of the government.
The people rapidly supported the uprising and gave carnations to the soldiers, rifles and uniforms’ pockets being perfect receptacles to display flowers proudly.
1 The lyrics in English of Grândola, Vila Morena are just here !
2 Not long before the Carnation Revolution, the General Spínola and the General Costa Gomez were fired from the army for having co-written a book untitled Portugal and its future in which they advocated for a political, non-military solution to the problem of the natives’ revolting in the Portuguese colonies.