sexta-feira, dezembro 16, 2011

Hitch on Portugal 1974, from "Hitch-22: A Memoir" (2010)

"The cultural element made it seem as if the best of 1968 was still relevant. One of the precipitating prerevolutionary moments had been the publication of a feminist manifesto by three women, all of whom were named Maria, and 'The Three Marias' became an exciting example of what womanhood could do when faced with a theocratic oligarchy that had treated them as breeding machines not far advanced above the level of chattel. Sex, long repressed, was to be scented very strongly on the wind: I remember in particular the only partly satirical Movimento da Esquerda Libidinosa or “Movement of the Libidinous Left,” with its slogan “Somos um partido sexocrático,” whose evident objective was the frantic making-up of lost time. The best revolutionary poster I saw — perhaps the best I have ever seen — expressed this same thought in a rather less erotic way: it showed a modest Portuguese family in traditional dress, being introduced to a receiving line of new friends who included Socrates, Einstein, Beethoven, Spinoza, Shakespeare, Charlie Chaplin, Louis Armstrong, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud. (There are many people in much richer countries who are still putting off this rendezvous.)"

"The leader of the Socialist Party, Mario Soares, a man whom I would normally have regarded as a pallid and compromising Social Democrat, summarized the situation with some pith. I still have the question he put to me double-underlined in my notebook from Lisbon. 'If the army officers are so much on the side of the people, why do they not put on civilian clothes?' It was a question not just for that moment.

I began to be extremely downcast by the failure, or was it refusal, of my International Socialist comrades to see what was staring them right in the face. Intoxicated by the admittedly very moving attempts at personal liberation and social 'self-management,' they could not or would not appreciate how much of this was being manipulated by a dreary conformist sect with an ultimate loyalty to Russia. Thus I found myself one evening in late March 1975 at a huge rally in the Campo Pequeno bullring in Lisbon, organized by the distinctly cautious Socialist Party but with the invigorating slogan: 'Socialismo Si! Dictatura Nao! ' The whole arena was a mass of red flags, and the other chants echoed the original one. There were calls for the right of chemical workers to vote, a banner that read 'Down With Social Fascism' and another that expressed my own views almost perfectly in respect of foreign intervention in Portugal: 'Nem Kissinger, Nem Brezhnev!'

I took my old friend Colin MacCabe along to this event. For his numberless sins he was at the time a member of the Communist Party, and at first employed an old Maoist catchphrase — 'waving the red flag to oppose the red flag”— to dismiss what he was seeing. But gradually he became more impressed and as the evening began to crystallize he unbent so far as to say: 'Sometimes the wrong people can have the right line.' I thought then that he had said more than he intended, and myself experienced the remark as a sort of emancipation from the worry, which did still occasionally nag at me, that by taking up some out-of-line position I would find myself  'in bed with,' as the saying went, unsavory elements. It’s good to throw off this sort of moral blackmail and mind-forged manacle as early in life as one can.

The sequel takes very little time to tell: the Communists and their ultra-Left allies hopelessly overplayed their hand by trying for a barracks-based coup, the more traditional and rural and religious elements of Portuguese society rose in an indignant counter-revolution, a sort of equilibrium was restored and — e finita la commedia. The young radicals who had come from all over Europe to a feast of sex and sunshine and anti-politics folded their tents and doffed their motley and went home. It was the last fall of the curtain on the last act of the 1968 style, with its 'take your desires for reality' wall posters and its concept of work as play.

For me, it was also the end of the line with my old groupuscule. I had developed other disagreements, too, as the old and open-minded 'International Socialists' began to mutate into a more party-line sect. But Portugal had broken the mainspring for me, because it had caused me to understand that I thought democracy and pluralism were good things in themselves, and ends in themselves at that, rather than means to another end."

 All the rest on Portugal is a good read, numerous Portuguese spelling mistakes and all.
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