On the March 5, 2013 Paulo Portas, the vice prime-minister of Portugal, and leader of the Partido Popular (the right-wing neo-liberal member of the austerity governing coalition) visited India for a business trip. The objective of this short visit on behalf of the vice admiral of a sinking Portuguese vessel was to insure a safe route for the influx of foreign capital — in this case Indian capital — to reinvigorate the ailing Portuguese economy. There, in New Delhi, and in front of flashing cameras and journalists Paulo Portas gave out  the first ‘Golden Visa,’ which has become quite infamous in Portugal over the past weeks.

Now this ‘Golden Visa’ might seem like the Golden Ticket in the fable of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and that idea isn’t that far off. The system of Golden Visas was implemented, in the words of its promoters, to facilitate foreign investment in Portugal, and to boost the economy with innovative projects. Thus any foreign citizen with enough money and a project to invest in some section of the Portuguese economy a considerable amount of money was given access to the Via dei Fori Imperiali, a sort of express lane without tolls which would allow the rich and the affluent, in other words, the job creators of this world to come and spread their magical dust, and spread economical healthiness throughout the land of Lusitans. It was the magical solution to resolve of Portugal’s economic woes, insourcing entrepreneurship and the audacity of the foreign masters of capital.


The only problem with the entire scheme is that things didn’t quite work out according to plan. Thus on November 13, a political earthquake shook Lisbon. Four public offices became the targets of special anti-corruption unit raids: Portuguese border services agency, the entity which was in charge of directly issuing the Visas; the Ministry of Justice and the Institute of Registries and Notaries, the equivalent of our Ministry of National Revenue; and the Ministry of Internal Administration, the equivalent of our Ministry of Public Works and Governmental Affairs.

The heads of all these institutions have been questioned by Portuguese police, and have been accused of, corruption, trafficking of influence and money laundering, among other things. Two companies Golden Visas Europe and JMF-Projects and Business Inc. offered services for foreign private investors looking to dry their money in the sun on some picturesque Portuguese beach.

A travel agency for capital, Marx would have been delighted!

Both of these companies had direct ties to the legal public authorities, who were quintessential in the issuing of the infamous Golden Visas. For example Miguel Macedo the Minister of Internal Administration had a direct stake in Golden Visas Europe; he had been the founding partner of the enterprise — even though he was already minister at the time — with a young lady by the name of Luísa Oliveira Figueiredo, who happened to the daughter of António Figueiredo, the head of the Institute of Registries and Notaries.

Miguel Macedo

It was all a coincidence obviously!

In the year 2013 alone, 110,000 Portuguese of all ages, and from all walks of life migrated and initiated ajourney whichwe call saudade, the longing for the return to the mother land. Austerity measures continue to hit Portugal hard, but at least some at the top of the Portuguese political ladder have understood the mechanisms that will allow them to profit from the suffering and the misery of the common Portuguese Joe or in this case João.

Some authors in the past spoke of monopoly capitalism when referring to the uber concentration of capital within the orbit of a few corporations, multinational enterprises, of wealth. For Paul Sweezy, capitalism under Pax Americana in the mid-1960s was far from being the rule of the ‘free-market’ that Adam Smith had theorized. Rather it was an oligarchy, a saturated orgy of the rich and powerful that always reproduced their power through new business ventures and “created” new markets when necessary.

The scandal of the ‘Golden Visas’ underlines the hypocrisy of the extreme right-wing rhetoric, which is in vogue throughout Europe, and is represented in Portugal by the Partido Nacional Renovador (PNR). Hundreds and thousands of poor and toiling African immigrants amass at ‘Fortress Europe’s’ borders; the “wretched of the earth” as Frantz Fanon said. Upon their arrival in Europe they join the ranks of the lowest of the lowest classes, yet form the invisible and voiceless backbone of an economy in shambles.


We demonise them, tarnish their image. They are the incarnation of all the wrath that the laborious people of Portugal feel. In the meantime multi-millionaire gangsters have made a paradise, coached in the misery of both the Portuguese and the migrant working classes. The focus that the extreme right puts on immigrant populations is a diversion tactic, used as a veil to hide the real illegal immigrants that capitalize on the economic crisis: The ‘Golden’ immigrants, the avatars of the ‘free’ circulation of capital. Unfortunately for them, this inherent contradiction has been unveiled and the emperor is revealed to be naked.

The Golden Visas and the story of Portugal since 2011 is the perfect example of the rise of a new form of capitalism, which can be called ‘casino capitalism.’ It is a mix between libertarian paradise and state-capitalism à la Xiaoping. Its most brutal manifestation is this system of Golden Visas; a rigged lottery which only favours the ‘free’, and the automatization of capital servant of the markets and financial cartels pushed through by a neo-liberal state — the state after all isn’t that bad when it serves the interests of capital!

Within this new economic world everything becomes possible. While millions of young and talented Portuguese leave toiling to put an end to their precarity, the country is being stripped to pieces and sold to the highest bidder. Soon every aspect of Portuguese life will be liberated from the constraints of the state — no regulation whatsoever. In this brave new world modeled through the lense of Atlas Shrugged, everyone will be under the yoke of those that have enough influence and power to make and break the market, those that write the laws of an unfree market.

A luta continua!

It was 00:20 April the 25th of 1974, when a bunch of rebellious young captains, armed with a bunch of antiquated weapons, driving some outfitted, broken-down armored vehicles and unorganized novice recruits, announced through the beautiful hymn of Portuguese resistance Grandola Villa Morena the end of the longest dictatorship on European soil.

This past Friday marked the 40th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, and yet, in many ways, while 40 years might have past, the events of April 1974 and the revolutionary agitation that continued until November of 1975 are more relevant today than any time since. The memory of these past events longs for new revolutionaries to continue planting the carnations of the past in the bleak austere Portugal of today.

And if this article of mine today has any objective, it is to debunk the myths revolving around this revolution of April that grow like bad weeds threatening the very livelihood of the carnations that we have so carefully gardened since. In many ways the carnations of that red April, the ideals and principals of April 74, are on a lifeline in Portugal. Some would say that everything is on a lifeline in Portugal and they would be right, but some things more than others.

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Student protest in Portugal April 2, 2014 (image: newstimes.com)

The outburst of popular joy, the scenes of immense happiness, relief that better days were to come, relief that no young Portuguese would have to fight in the wars of colonial aggression were implanted in the Portuguese common psyche in 74-75. It is very significant that this year those images were mirrored in a very different way during the commemorations of the 40th anniversary. In many ways, scenes of happiness and joy became promises of renewed resistance, a heartfelt commitment to bring the ideals of 1974, the movement of thousands of unionists, of anti-fascist militants, communists and socialists, back to the forefront of the political struggle in a political arena that has be dormant for too long.

Every revolution breeds a counter-revolution, thus the tumultuous period that followed created the conditions for the reaction of the 25th of November that put an end once and for all to the revolutionary process that was put in motion on the 25th of April. And this is the first myth that must be dismantled: the 25th of April was not the culminating point of the Carnation Revolution, much to the contrary it was the opening of the flood gates, not the be-all end-all.

But this is a very potent myth indeed. Center-right and right-wing Portuguese political formations have used it to paint the Portuguese uprising of April 74 as yet another liberal, pro-democracy, pro-western revolution. Thus the Carnation Revolution became tied up in the various “velvet revolutions” and the underlying radical ideals and movements that were its true motors were buried, in practice and in memory.

The Portuguese revolution was far from being one of those liberal revolutions that were the by-products of capitalism and whose primary purpose was the liberation of the markets and not the liberation of the people. The Portuguese revolution was in many ways very radical and as its centerpiece was economic justice and economic liberation of the people above all things.

The recurrent myth that the Iberian revolutions against fascism of the 1970s were velvet revolutions is a hoax. The notion of velvet revolutions is a hoax itself, a pretty lie to murder any memory of the struggles of land reform, the occupation of factories, or the setting-up of workers cooperatives and usher in a new story of April 74 that fits within the neoliberal rhetoric of freedom = austerity.

Another myth, menace, a threat that might if enabled to grow freely forever ruin the gardens of April 74, is the notion that the Carnation revolution was exclusively a Portuguese matter. In many ways the Carnation revolution was propelled and invigorated by the revolutions of national liberation that were ablaze in Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau.

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Carnations held at the 40th anniversary commemoration of Portugal’s Carnation Revolution (image: newstimes.com)

The right wing, fascistic elements in Portugal love to remind us subtly, in not so many words, that not so long ago Portuguese and Angolans were mortal enemies and base their nationalistic populism on a combination of historical hatred and contemporary xenophobia against immigrants. Something that became self-evident to many Portuguese soldiers in the wars of national liberation was that their struggle, the struggle of the Portuguese working class (which obviously made-up the majority of the ranks of Portuguese soldiers in Africa) and that of the Angolans and Mozambicans was the same. The liberation of Portugal went hand in hand with the liberation of all peoples of the Portuguese empire and beyond.

Last but not least is the myth that somehow Portuguese democracy was saved from the most radical fringes of the Carnation Revolution, from the communists and the more left-wing “true” socialists. The mistake made here is a simple one, a misunderstanding of the terms revolution and counter-revolution.

The Carnation revolution is in many ways an unfinished one, because in appearance, on the surface, many things might have seemed to change in Portuguese society in the past 40 years, but in reality the fundamental structure of oppression, of the concentration of wealth and land within the hands of a few continues unchanged. The same that benefited from the structure of the dictatorship are benefiting now from the dictatorship of the Troika.

If Portugal has been in and out of “economic crises” during these past 40 years it’s because of one simple dynamic: the struggle between those that through austerity and neo-liberalism try to re-create the same paradigm that existed under Salazar and the old regime with a democratic façade and those that fight to continue the revolution of April 74. It’s the struggle between the Carnations and the bad-weeds that are trying to strangle the last radicalism of April 74 to death.

From the scenes I noticed yesterday, the faces of people that marched passed-on one significant message to the economic elites, the carnations of April 74 still grow in us! As Gabriel Garcia Marquez once said this experience of “Socialism à la Portugaise” lives on! The antidote to austerity is to keep gardening the Carnations of April 74.

Abril de novo, Abril para sempre!