Friday, September 13, 2013

Monarchism and the Corporate State in Portugal

Having been asked to talk more about Portugal (which I have covered in the past and will again in the future certainly), I thought I would take this opportunity to get out of the way a subject over which I know many Portuguese, even monarchists, will disagree with me on. Be that as it may, I will take this opportunity to at least get it out of the way and perhaps give pause to those who would prompt me to revisit a subject about which they may not like what I have to say. So, let us begin:

One of the last occasions in which many monarchists had realistic reasons to hope for a restoration of the Portuguese monarchy was during the era of the “New State”. This was the corporatist regime, presided over by Prime Minister Antonio Salazar, lasting from 1932 to 1974 when the corporate state was brought down by the so-called ‘Carnation Revolution’ which was basically a military coup in Lisbon by leftist army officers. Portugal had, of course, been in a great deal of trouble ever since 1910 when the monarchy was overthrown, King Manuel II was driven into exile and revolutionary, anti-clerical republic was established. Things were unsurprisingly chaotic in the ensuing years until Salazar came to power, ruling effectively as a dictator, and setting up his corporatist state. In the years since the Carnation Revolution, Salazar has been officially on the “naughty list” and is usually described as a right-wing, fascist, Catholic dictator. I am sure I will offend not a few when I say that I consider Antonio Salazar not to have been a “bad guy” at all. On the contrary, I think he did a great deal of good for Portugal and in his campaigns to suppress communist subversion at home and in the colonies by his struggle to maintain the Portuguese empire, I think he was fighting the good fight. Again, I know many people and even many monarchists will disagree with me on that.

Allow me to say that, in broad terms, many of the accusations coming from the critics of Salazar are perfectly true. He was “right-wing” in that he was a man of traditional values and opinions. He was not a fascist exactly but he was a corporatist which many people take to be the same thing. One must keep in mind that today anyone who is not a communist is in danger of being labeled a fascist. It is unfortunate that today the word “fascist” is often seen as being synonymous with the word “Nazi” or, in other words, being a national socialist. We should be clear; Salazar certainly was a corporatist but he was most definitely not a national socialist, viewing the Nazis as so many pagan barbarians and he actually took harsh measures to ensure that Nazism did not gain a foothold in Portugal. He was also, effectively, a dictator in that, while never holding the top position of President, he ran the government and was able to act as he saw fit. He was not too dissimilar from his neighbor Generalissimo Francisco Franco in Spain. Both were rather traditional types, staunch Catholics and anti-communists. However, obviously, one was succeeded by a restored monarchy and one was not. Of course, there were reasons.

Salazar restored the Church to her place of preeminence which she had lost after 1910, established corporations to represent all major industries (both labor and ownership) and he revived the traditional, small-time fishing, farming and artisan industries. The Portuguese economy actually began to recover and improved steadily up until the outbreak of communist revolutions in the colonies messed things up by necessitating large expenditures on the military before Portugal was really fit to handle such an undertaking. It was also in the colonies that the corporatist regime came into disagreement with the heir to the Portuguese throne. Antonio Salazar had won the support of most monarchists early on and had said that he would restore the Kingdom of Portugal when the time was right. Unfortunately, Salazar would depart this earth before deeming that time to have come. He earned monarchist support by giving the deposed King Manuel II a full state funeral when he died in 1932 as well as removing the ban on members of the Royal Family coming to Portugal and restoring properties the republican government had previously confiscated (stole) from them. When President Oscar Carmona died in 1951 Salazar seriously considered restoring the monarchy but had enough doubts to refrain from doing so.

During much of this period, unfortunately, the monarchists did themselves few favors, particularly if they wished to win the support of a man like Salazar. The succession had been disputed and though Portugal had not been troubled too much by it, an observer needed only to look at the sorry depths to which Spain had fallen because of such a division to be reminded of how damaging a feud between monarchists could be for a country. Some had also tried to raise doubts about the place and conditions of the birth of Dom Duarte Nuno, Duke of Braganza in order to at least give some pause over his legal standing to succeed to the throne. For a leader who was always concerned with eliminating harmful divisions in his country, to a large extent, the issue of the monarchy seemed to present a great many problems that no one wanted to have to risk dealing with. Dom Duarte Pio, son of Duarte Nuno and current Duke of Braganza, also got on the wrong side of the corporatist regime in 1972 (after the death of Salazar) by his political activities in Angola. The prime minister, Marcelo Caetano, who expelled him from Portugal was the last PM of the corporatist regime as he was overthrown in the Carnation Revolution only a short time later in 1974. The politics of Dom Duarte Pio could be revealed in the message he made public at that time calling the revolution a great moment for the country and offering his full support to the military; basically a way of showing his support for a return to direct democracy.

Whether this reflection of the political views of Dom Duarte gave the corporatist regime pause or if they considered him too influenced by liberal elements, I do not know but certainly those in power did not consider the royal heir a close friend and ally. This is a major divergence from what happened across the border in neighboring Spain. Like Salazar, Generalissimo Franco made it clear that his desire was to see the Kingdom of Spain restored. Pro-monarchy steps were taken in both countries and yet in Spain the monarchy was restored and in Portugal it was not. What were the reasons for this? One possibility is the difference between Dom Duarte Pio and HM King Juan Carlos in their relationship to the powers ruling Spain and Portugal. Whether anyone likes it or not or considers it to have been sincere or not, one thing is certain; Juan Carlos won the approval of Generalissimo Franco and gave every indication of being exactly in lock step with his views and positions. Generalissimo Franco trusted him, entrusted the state to him, and willed that the monarchy be restored after his death. This could never have happened in Portugal if the heir to the throne took an even moderately antagonistic attitude toward Salazar and the ruling corporatist regime. Why would they restore or order the future restoration of the monarchy if they had any inclination that the “New State” they had built would be dissolved as a consequence?

However, it must quickly be made clear that, even if Dom Duarte had done as his Spanish counterpart did and win the absolute trust and friendship of the ruler of the country, there is still no guarantee that Portugal would have a monarchy today. After all, another major difference between the examples of Spain and Portugal is that the regime of Franco died a ‘natural death’ as it were. The regime of Salazar did not, it was overthrown in a military coup. It is entirely possible that, if Salazar had restored the monarchy in 1951 or even later after the Royal Family demonstrated their total support for him and the corporatist regime, that when the Carnation Revolution broke out the monarchy would have been seen as tainted and overthrown yet again along with the “New State”. Even as things were, with Dom Duarte Pio expressing support, the leftist officers who dismantled the corporatist regime were certainly still not favorably inclined towards the idea of returning Portugal to the status of a traditional, Catholic monarchy as she had been in the past. Based on the voting record since that time, we can see that the same self-destructive trends have swept over the Portuguese like almost every other country in the western world, and they have not seen fit to restore the monarchy. Obviously, based on that same voting record, there is little desire to un-do what was done in the Carnation Revolution.

As stated at the outset, I am coming from the unpopular position of one who did not think the “New State” was bad at all (as republics go) and, although there have been few genuine efforts at it, it seems to me that the corporatist model might be a good way of providing representative government in a way that could be done without the horribly divisive pure poison that is political parties. Given that, I would have liked to have seen the Portuguese Royal Family draw closer to Salazar and been more supportive of his regime. And, it should go without saying, I would then have liked for the monarchy to have been restored in similar fashion to what happened in Spain (though with the system of government being maintained afterwards). I realize it is entirely possible that the Carnation Revolution might have then brought down both the corporatist regime and the monarchy but that is what I would have preferred, not what I think would have been realistically viable in the long-term. The rightful king was not, and so far has not, been restored by casting his lot with the forces of democracy and, as can also be seen in Spain these days, even King Juan Carlos might be having second thoughts about his decisions after coming to power.

Finally, one thing that the current state of both Spain and Portugal should show us is that the supposedly harsh and totalitarian regimes of both Salazar and Franco were not nearly so crushing and oppressive as their critics claim. Were they so, these countries would not today be so far in the opposite direction. Compare this to leftist, socialist, Marxist dictatorships around the world which endure to this very day, their founding dictators still revered as beloved, godlike figures. Even in countries where these dictatorships have fallen, see how strong the legacy of the brainwashing that went on remains. Major political parties still hold power advocating the same policies in many if not most of them and in Russia the Soviet flags still fly (mostly in the military) and a former KGB officer is president. All that being said though, no one should construe what I have said as being intended as any undue criticism of HRH the Duke of Braganza. Today we can only play the cards we have been dealt and the Portuguese monarchy can, at this point, only be restored by gaining popular support. The Duke has been doing an admirable job, and can only continue, doing all he can do which is to make the case to the public for restoring the monarchy. Given the glories Portugal achieved as a kingdom and the low state it has sunk to under the republic, particularly in the economic sphere, it should be a compelling case.


  1. I totally agree with regards to the very unfortunate fall of Portugal. Really, the world was struck with a double-blow when the Brazillian and Portuguese monarchies were struck off within 35 years of each other.

    Brazil was a particularly bizarre case because the monarch was not only expanding the Brazilian economy at record speed and tripling the per capita income of his subjects, but was also very popular with his people when he was overthrown by the military.

    Portugal was just as bad, though, as the usual confusing republican logic came into play.

    "Everything negative that is happening to our country now is the sole fault of the monarch and nobody else. Republicanism will instantly remedy our problems"

    The monarchy, therefore, which had over the course of hundreds of years seen Portugal ascend to a position of global preeminence and guided it to victory against the threat of destruction by Napoleon, was in just one week dashed by the eternal blessing of republicanism and, of course, the new government was naturally decided to be best-led by those who had professed a desire to see the 'dictatorship' of the constitutional monarchy destroyed in the first place.

    It truly is a terrible, circular joke. The deposition of the monarchy in 1910 wasn't even relevant to the main goals of the revolutionaries - it was almost an afterthought, as if they thought of it as an inconvenient, like destroying an Edwardian glass window while renovating a house simply because it is 'Old-fashioned'.

    It certainly didn't get them anywhere. The Republic of Portugal went through a GDP contraction of 4% last year and the trend doesn't look like it's going to stop any time soon. Spain is going through a similar problem because of the corruption of the politicians (which, for some reason, the people are still tolerating), although the Spanish economy only shrank by 1.4%.

    Salazar was an interesting figure. I think that he probably did more for the country than he is given credit for, and it was probably the case that if post-1910 governmental trend had continued Portugal would be in an even worse state today than it is, but I am still firmly of the opinion that his failure to restore the Kingdom was a major mistake on his part.

  2. Such a shame that men like Dollfuss, Franco, and Salazar are all thrown in with the Nazis, and simply called "fascists". These states are overlooked by conservatives and Catholics as embarrassing, and the left simply denounces them as backward despots (I would say evil, but the left doesn't really believe in good or evil). These men stood for tradition and were willing to fight for their values. While only Franco was able to restore the monarchy of his country, they were all great statesmen, and it is a shame to see their names dragged through the muck when men like Lenin and Che Guevara are admired by our culture.

  3. Being a Portuguese monarchist myself i thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and agree with your views on Salazar, I admire him and his efforts to integrate the Portuguese overseas provinces administratively and economically to the mainland,I think if someone could have rescued Portugal it would have been him, with that i think its important to mention the more unfavorable things he did like state Censorship, PIDE- the political police, rigging votes, torturing and assassination of people who opposed the regime.

  4. This is a great post. Thanks for looking at this issue.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...