Jean Jaurès 1911

The Portuguese Republic

First published: in L'Humanité;
Source: Jean Jaurès, “The Portugese Republic,” Justice, 12th August 1911, p.7;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

It is enough to pass two or three days in Portugal to realise to what extent the reactionary and pseudo-Liberal, press of all countries deceives public opinion. To listen to them one would suppose, Portugal to be in a state of growing disorder and of permanent anarchy; the Republican regime to be debilitated, discredited, at the mercy of the slightest attack on the part of the enemy, and the monarchy prepared to return. All this is absurdly false. The country is quiet and industrious, and is prospering. The Portuguese country, so rich, of so varied a fertility where the hand of man helps so ingeniously the generosity of the soil, offers the spectacle of a joyous activity. At Lisbon itself the emigration of the gilded parasites of the old regime hardly makes itself felt, in economic life. The citizens know that the country they so passionately love possesses great natural resources; that wisely administered with honesty and economy it would escape the embarrassments brought about by the monarchy; and they know, thanks to the men entrusted with power the day after the revolution, of the first efforts towards organisation and reform. Republican sentiment has retained all the vivacity of the first days, and it is becoming firm and assured.

On July 14, at Lisbon, the enthusiasm was admirable; the people went in masses to the French Legation acclaiming simultaneously the Portuguese and French Republics. But above all, when the Government, in order to show the monarchist conspirators assembled on the frontier that it would know how to protect itself, proceeded to mobilise the reserves, all the reservists responded with the most joyous enthusiasm to the call. I think that the least counter-revolutionary attempt would be opposed by a magnificent rising of the national forces.

They assure us that the emigrants (like our emigrants of ‘92) are full of illusions. They have money, and can buy arms and powder. A convoy was recently seized. The plan of the conspirators would be, it is said, to gain an entry into some villages in the North, where religious fanaticism has more hold than in Portugal as a whole, to stir up revolt as they approach nearer and nearer, to occupy Oporto and make it the monarchist capital of Portugal. It would then be the duel between Oporto and Lisbon that would decide the future. It is a dream without substance. If a rising had been possible it would have happened on the day following the vote for the separation of Church and State, which was a direct blow at the political power of the Church. No one moved. The Portuguese people is not Clericalist, and it does not carry the burden of a dark fanaticism, it has the taste for life, amid a smiling and kindly nature, which was long ruined by the folly and disorder of the rulers. The peasants; busy repairing the walls of the terraces, or drawing water at the fountains in the shadow of the vine-trellises, love the familiar joys of each day, and the heroic memories of adventures on the high seas preserve in the Portuguese people a noble confidence in the genius of man, and a pride of race combined with the greatest affability. I do not think the priests and monks will manage to get hold of them again; Clericalism has not struck its hard and gloomy roots sufficiently deep.

All the Portuguese I asked about the conspiring monarchists spoke of them with disdain. But they also spoke with anger. They do not frighten them, but they annoy them. It is irritating to have to keep watch for suspected assemblies, for clandestine conveyance of arms, and to live, more or less, prepared for war. This forces them to expenditure which is all the more inopportune as the monarchy has left them as a legacy the worst budget in Europe. Above all, they cannot control their temper when they think that the incapable and wasteful dynasty, struck down among hatred and mistrust, should still insist upon, interfering with the, reconstitution of a country which they have so scandalously exploited. They know that in order to repair the accumulated faults of the past, to bring order into the administration and the finances to develop the resources of the country, they need a long period of labour and effort, and they are indignant that those who have done so much harm to the nation are trying to deprive it even of the liberty of spirit that it so greatly needs – poisoned flies returning again and again to buzz round the fruit.

The exiles who are playing at a Counter revolution are playing a game at once criminal and dangerous. They will lose miserably, but they may rob the Portuguese revolution of the beautiful and magnanimous serenity it has shown up till now. Moreover, as the assemblies of Portuguese conspirators on Spanish territory have actively excited the defiance of all Portugal towards the Spanish monarchy, the crisis might assume proportions which improvident Europe, too often contemptuous towards the Portugese Republic, does not suspect.