Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Does the name Antonio de Oliveira Salazar mean anything to you? Strange if it doesn’t, because alongside Hitler, Stalin, Franco, Mussolini, Caucescu and Tito, it is Salazar whose name completes the list of truly nasty fascists who ran European countries in the middle decades of the 20th century – yet he does tend to be forgotten.

Prime Monster of Portugal from 1932 to 1974, he opposed every ideology known to Humankind, replacing them all with his own invention, Lusotropicalism or Pluricontinentalism, which envisioned a single country, ruled from Lisbon, but transcending geography to incorporate all of Portugal’s imperial domains, which included Angola and Mozambique, Macau and East Timor (Timor-Leste), parts of India as well. Nehru tried to persuade him to give up the Indian territories, and then supported the insurrection that forced the issue. Fifty thousand troops sent to Angola were insufficient to prevent the Marxist guerrillas liberating that country in the early 1960s, after which the same happened in Ouidah, which was annexed by Dahomey (now Benin), and then Guinea, and then Mozambique, until finally, after Macau became the last of Salazar’s fantasies to confront reality, the Carnation Revolution of 1974, in which the people came out on the streets en masse in protest at the continuing dictatorship, and the army came out on to the streets as well, but most unusually not to massacre but to support the people, the era of Salazar and the epoch that never happened of Lusotropicalism made its way into the oblivion which it clearly still inhabits, and frankly good riddance.

For all its efforts, and the support it has received from joining the European Community in 1986, Portugal has not yet recovered from the catastrophe of Salazar, and lives from hand to mouth each day so close to bankruptcy that there are voices within the EU saying enough is enough. A 78 billion Euro bailout in 2008 provided some emergency relief, but Portugal has been living under austerity measures for so long, there wasn’t much left for the government to be austere about in order to meet the demands of the lenders. Agriculture and tourism and the kind of history that is better not taught in schools are all it has.

The languages of the world are mostly the consequence of empire (Greek, Hebrew and Sanskrit, for example, are all derived from the Hittites who conquered them). Today English, French and Spanish dominate the non-Chinese world, but there is also Portuguese, the sixth most widely used langauge, with about two hundred and forty million people speaking the language, albeit most of them in Brazil.

Marks for: 1974

Marks against: 78 billion

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